Monday, July 4, 2011


Happy Independence Day, everybody! Today is indeed a day to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy and the rich heritage that we have as Americans. I hope that your 4th of July is free of fear and instead has a distinctly "thanksgiving" feel to it - not in terms of turkey and dressing and football but in terms of GRATITUDE! Enjoy the fireworks, friends, family, and frankfurters. And give thanks.

As this day approached, I was thinking a lot about freedom and what it means. I decided to do a quick word search (using - a great tool), in English (not the original languages - note the word "quick"!), to see how the biblical authors used the words that we translate into "free" and "freedom". Below are most, certainly not all, of the passages that I found. (Note: I mostly avoided "free" as an adjective and the adverb "freely" and selected passages that seem to be talking about the state of being "being free" or "having freedom".)

Interestingly, the first passage that came up was from Genesis 2, when God told man "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden"... I encourage everyone to read these passages today, this week, or this month and reflect on what freedom is. How is the author using the word? Is that different from how I most often use it? What is the context of each particular usage? From what, exactly, are we freed? And what are we freed TOWARD - freed up to do? What's the point, as it were, of freedom anyway?

Much of what you will read below was written by the apostle Paul, often writing as a political/religious prisoner. The thing that jumped out at me most was that just about as often as Paul talks about being free, he also talks about THEN voluntarily becoming slaves! Slaves to righteousness, slaves to God! So in a sense, the bible says that slavery (servanthood, servitude) is better than freedom - as long as we choose the right Master.

On the 4th of July, American Christians (or Christian Americans?) are often sorely tempted to participate in mild and not-so-mild forms of idol worship, substituting American civil religion for truly following Christ. But the simple truth is that sometimes those two things overlap, and sometimes they don't. Let those of us who have chosen to follow Christ remember this year that we are Christians first, and only then Americans or whatever other names or labels we wear. I say with a heart that loves my country and is grateful to those who lead and defend it that I have a primary allegiance, and it is to Christ. The USA is one of many nations filled with God's children and God's handiwork. And anyone who has been blessed - and we in America have undeniably been lavishly blessed - is blessed TO BE A BLESSING! May that be truly said of us between now and July 4, 2012. God bless America! And everybody else, too!

On this Independence Day, let's also not forget about our utter DEPENDENCE on God as Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Comforter, Guide, and Holder of the future. On this day when we celebrate freedom, let's think about the truest, deepest meaning of that word, which is freedom IN CHRIST. Come what may in America - and I hope for and will do my part to work toward the good - I will place my HOPE in Jesus and only Jesus. As John wrote so long ago, “…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Okay, enough of my words - let's just let the inspired words of Scripture speak:

“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;’” (Gen. 2:16)

“Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.” (Psalm 25:17)

“Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.” (Psalm 31:4)

“This is what the wicked are like – always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” (Psalm 73:12)

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)

“A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.” (Proverbs 19:5)

“ 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,” (Isaiah 61:1-2)  (and again by Jesus in Luke 4)

“16 But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again. 17 “Therefore this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you, declares the LORD—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 Those who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.” (Jeremiah 34:16-18)

“Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.” (Mark 5:29)

“Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.” (Luke 1:64)

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

“…if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

“‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or crucify you?’” (John 19:10)

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:24)

“So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:28)

“and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:24)

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18)

“…the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

“For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Romans 13:3)

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32)

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)

[The Believer’s Freedom] 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

“This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” (Galatians 2:4)

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)

“…you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:8)

“ 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. …” (Colossians 1:21-23a)

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

“…he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14b-15)

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)

“ 12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13)

“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Peter 2:16)

“18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (1 Peter 2:18-20)

“He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.” (Revelation 20:3)