Sunday, July 1, 2012

True Freedom Is More Than Stars & Stripes

In unison, we stretch right arms across our chests, lay palms flat over beating hearts.  The meek and bold alike lift their voices to recite the pledge, to sing the familiar tunes to patriotic anthems. To celebrate America's birthday is a time-honored tradition.  It is a time to remember a history fraught with difficulty, a time to give thanks for this freedom that is ours.


We who live in America believe we are free.  We point to our Constitution and recite our freedoms--of religion, of speech, of the press, of assembly.  Then, we point at other countries in disapproval, shake our corporate head at the others governments' restrictions that violate basic human freedoms.

And yet, I would argue that most Americans are not free

We merely live under the delusion that physical freedom is true freedom.  Instead, true freedom defies physical location; it is an internal freedom of the spirit that can be experienced even in the most oppressive country in the world.

John records Jesus speaking to a crowd of Jews "who had believed him," saying, "'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' They answered Him, “'We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?'" (Jn. 8:32-33).

Jesus has just revealed the secret of true freedom--continuing to abide in the Word, continuing in Christ, Himself, by not turning their backs on him, but continuing to be His true disciple.  And yet, the pride within his listeners at the thought of a freedom not yet grasped bubbled over into angry words. 

"Who is this man who implies we are slaves!?  WE are free men! Free! WE are Abraham's descendants.  Of all the peoples on earth, WE are the equivalent of royalty. Slaves--ha!."

What a lie.  Abraham's descendants had been in bondage several generations in Egypt.  Then came the seventy years of being held captive by Babylon.  In fact, even as these men spoke, Israel was in national bondage as a tributary to Rome.

As Matthew Henry says of this passage, "It is common for a sinking decaying family to boast of the glory and dignity of its ancestors, and to borrow honour from that name to which they repay disgrace."   Wow.

As men who were spiritually bankrupt, all they had were memories of yesterday's glory.  So, they argued the physical impossibility of slavery in an attempt to imply that since they were not physically slaves, they couldn't possibly be slaves in the spiritual sense.

Christ, though, didn't allow Himself to become bogged down in this tangent.  He didn't give them a history lesson but, rather, skipped right over this lie to focus again on His point--true, spiritual freedom.  

Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (Jn. 8:35-36). 

Jesus made it clear that one is enslaved to sin unless He remains in service to the Son of God forever.  A person either continually abides in the Word of God, in Christ's footsteps, OR a person continually abides in slavery to sin. 

It's an either / or situation.  True freedom can only be achieved by continuing in Christ.

This is so important for our nation because much as these Jews argued with Jesus that they were free because of a great Godly lineage, I fear America is doing much the same.

Too many Americans claim the label Christian but not continuing obedience to the Word of God.

Too many claim a childhood memory of walking down an aisle but not continuing fruit of salvation demonstrated in their lives.

Too many claim the blessings of God in Scripture but ignore those passages about His judgment.

Too many claim membership in a particular religion but not the continuing practice thereof.

Too many claim a spiritual experience but not the Holy Spirit's indwelling daily direction.
True freedom isn't in what we claim with our lips or in what we once were or in what our parents were.  Freedom is of the spirit; it is internal, individual, and eternal.

One who genuinely is made free through salvation in Christ will be "free indeed" and will "remain forever" in the Son.

While we have inherited a good many freedoms from America's forefathers, there are only so many things we can borrow from our ancestors.  Freedom in our souls isn't one of them.

True freedom requires more than just a Constitution and a blue-spangled flag with red and white stripes. It requires being individually covered by the blood of Christ and continuing daily in His footsteps as His disciple.


  1. Hi Jennifer,

    A timely passage from John (for July 4), and a faithful interpretation and application.

    The part about being Abraham's descendants leads to claiming Abraham as their father (Jn. 8:39). We proud Americans have our own father Abraham, who set the slaves free. And father George, who freed us from the redcoats. We applaud and even revere these national fathers.

    But Jesus says (in Mt. 23:9-10) not to call any man your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in the heavens; and you should not be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ (the anointed king). So our adoration (idolatry?) and (servile) devotion toward our favorite kings of the earth sinfully distract us from our one true king.

  2. "adoration (idolatry?) and (servile) devotion toward our favorite kings of the earth sinfully distract us from our one true king"--Yes. And that devotion to our favorite "kings of earth" is idolatry in itself. We need to get past this notion that an idol is always made of metal, clay or wood and realize that anything that takes our attention off Him is an idol.