In the US, freedom is a significant cultural word. Often, we use language such as “free country”. The Declaration of Independence is quoted most often with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The problem with such an ideology has been shown in the context of individual liberty. We are currently watching political extremes play out in the public “square” where one person’s pursuit of happiness in in direct conflict with another’s.
The US Constitution is an imperfect document. It cannot deal with the myriad of people who want to rewrite it in their own image (equally an issue in the 2 primary political parties).
The US Constitution is, in many respects, a contract. Far too many people read it just like the read the terms and conditions on credit cards, mobile phones, internet agreements, account usages, etc.. In other words, there are too many people (politicians, media hosts, regular people) who haven’t read the constitution.
Yet, many people believe they have “rights” based on the tendency to misunderstand that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are not the same document and have completely different intents.
So, what do “rights” and “freedom” have to do with Jesus Christ? A whole lot and very little.
As a Roman citizen, Paul had rights and privileges that many people didn’t. Since he was born a citizen (see Acts 22:28) and was a Jew (a Benjaminite), at a minimum his father had bought rights or was granted them. Thus, at birth, Paul was a citizen.
Paul’s privilege may have well put him in a place of societal and political superiority of the Jewish world. He was an official part of Roman society and had special legal protection. From a legal standpoint, Paul’s privilege was not “white privilege” (as we hear today). From a functional viewpoint, however, it may not be far off.
When Paul talks about freedom, therefore, we must understand that he knew quite well what his freedom was in comparison to many (even most) Christians. He could do things, own things, influence things in ways others could not.
Recently, an acquaintance—George Holleway—wrote, “Christians, you may have freedom of speech constitutionally, but you don’t have it biblically.”
The immediate response was an argument that combined scripture with US culture and politics (and the constitution fits into both). It showed an ignorance of scripture and a presumption of culture that should deeply concern the church.
Paul’s words are slightly different than George’s, but both Paul and George have the same presumption…Christ comes first. Even the secular constitution has something with Paul’s words, others are important to our freedom.
For the constitution, it was to protect the people from the overreach of government (remember, we elected them). For the church, and Christ, it is to protect people from Hell.
Christians, we aren’t free to do whatever we want. We are free to do the will of Jesus Christ who came to earth to live and die, that we might be children of God.
- Why is it important to understand the difference between constitutional freedom and freedom in Jesus Christ?
- To you, what does “freedom in Jesus Christ” allow you to do? What does it—if anything—prevent you from doing?
- What is the difference between “freedom of” and “freedom in”?
Jesus, we call you Lord and Savior. In our world, Lord doesn’t have the impact it should. Help us to truly understand what it means that you are the Lord of our lives. Amen.