Bulletin March 2022
by Bruce Billington
What is Freedom?
With the recent freedom protest groups, marches and gatherings that have been experienced firstly in Canada and then in many other parts of the world, including NZ and Australia, I think it is topical to raise the question on what freedom really is.
These groups mentioned above are mostly protesting about the Government intention to mandate vaccines because this is a violation of our freedom. Of course, in the current understanding of democracy and the guarantees given by the Human Rights Commission, they have a point – and one that sadly seems to be coming up more and more in the realms of government verse individual rights. I fear it is far from over and will go well beyond Covid.
However, this article has a different purpose. Here I want to consider what freedom constitutes from a biblical perspective.
In his letter to Philemon, the Apostle Paul urges Philemon to free the runaway slave Onesimus who has become very dear to Paul while Paul is in prison. But here is something I often wonder – assuming Onesimus was freed, where did he go and what did he do? I suspect he voluntarily enslaved himself to Philemon but more as a son rather than a slave. In the times of his day, this would be a better expression of freedom than heading out into the world as an ex-slave.
The Prodigal son gained his “freedom” from his father and headed off into a world of indulgence and found no freedom in it at all. In fact, before long he wanted to go back home and become as one of his father’s lowliest servants, preferring that to the “freedom” he experienced when out in the “real” world.
Christ, in bringing freedom to us, had a very different perspective of what true freedom was. To being with, we discover, in the biblical definition freedom is not something we head for or strive for – it is something that gets granted to us. It is not something that a person can discover or purchase. No code of behaviour can bring it to us. Neither can a government, politician, army, religion, or philosophy of life. It is something that exists in a being – Jesus Christ and in Him alone it is made available in its fullness. He offers it to all of those who become born again and embrace His way of life.
Furthermore, one could argue that the goal for those who are in Christ, is to work hard to preserve this freedom by dealing with those things in that threaten to take this freedom away. Galatians 5:1 says, “it was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
It may well be important at times to stand up and protest against the government or any such institution that threatens to rob us of our freedom – but if we are really on a quest of freedom it is equally important is to search within ourselves and go on the offensive against any type of behaviour within us which is an even greater threat to the freedom that Christ gained for us. Once having done this we then need to put on the behaviour and disciplines that allow this freedom to permeate our life and lifestyle.
Ironically, this freedom has a twist to it. It is not gained by casting off all restraints – as the Western world has attempted to do in recent times. On the contrary, it is gained by putting on something – a yoke!
Listen to Jesus here.
Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What a startling comment on how to gain freedom! But the truth being expressed here is that there are no yokeless human beings. Bob Dylan saw this and wrote a song about it called, “You have to serve somebody.” Everyone is wearing a yoke but only Jesus’ yoke is easy – the others all rob us of some aspect of life and freedom.
Jesus is telling us that the reason we get so weary is because we are carrying the wrong yokes; we are overburdened because we are bearing the wrong burdens. He is promising that if we replace the yokes that we are currently bearing in exchange for being yoked with Him, we will find rest for our souls and therein is found true freedom.
Let’s fight to maintain this freedom by all means – but first let’s make sure we have the true freedom that is worth fighting for. A wonderful aspect of this freedom is that no one can actually take it away from us. If we truly walk in the way of the Lord, it will be part of our life even in the most extreme circumstances.
God bless you.