First of all, I really appreciate the saying, “Freedom Isn’t Free”, first coined by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock, and engraved on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It speaks to the high cost of those who gave and continue to give their very lives in defense of our country and its freedoms. Indeed, freedom is not free in the sense that in order to get it, as our forefathers knew well on this day 237 years ago, you have to be willing to pay a high price.
So when I say, “Freedom IS Free”, I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about the nature of freedom when you have it.
As I was driving back from running an Independence Day 5K this morning, I heard on the radio about some of the restrictions on the holiday festivities today. It’s one of the sad realities of life in this world today that in order to have a certain amount of security and safety against those who would cause us harm, there need to be limitations to some of our liberties that we would otherwise enjoy.
However, later in the report when a reporter asked some bystanders about the restrictions, one person said, “Well, like they say, Freedom isn’t free.”
I can understand that response, as it sort of relates back to the cost of maintaining freedom. But I think there is a danger of letting the “Freedom isn’t free” concept cross over into what freedom actually is, and what it’s like to be free. A line has to be drawn between paying for freedom and having freedom. If we are talking about the nature of freedom itself, then freedom IS free, darn it!!! After all, FREE is the root of the word FREEdom!
Now my purpose here is not, like some, to talk about having and maintaining and protecting freedoms to do certain things in our country without being thrown in jail, etc., although I am grateful for those efforts. The thing about freedoms to do things without it being against the law, is that they are defined by the law. This kind of freedom is defined by whatever is not outlawed, or somehow forbidden by other means. Since these restrictions are set up by humans, the associated freedoms are defined by humans, and therefore can be dismantled by humans. Thus there is a need to maintain and protect these freedoms with vigilance.
But what I am talking about here is something deeper than that. It is a freedom that cannot be taken away. It is a freedom that many Christians since Jesus have known even as they were in jail. We as Christians know a freedom that was purchased with the ultimate price by Jesus Christ. So in the same way as our freedoms to human rights protected in the Constitution, it wasn’t free to obtain this deeper freedom. Jesus paid the price.
What is this freedom that Jesus won for us? First of all it is a freedom from certain things. Whole books have been written about each of these. There is freedom from sin, which we find spoken of for instance in Romans 6:7, “…because anyone who has died [with Christ] has been freed from sin.” In Christ we have freedom from slavery to sin and slavery to fear (see Romans 8:15). There is freedom from darkness (see Colossians 1:13). These things are all intertwined, and I think the deepest freedom is the freedom from death. In Romans 6:9-11 it says (with my emphasis in italics), “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” This ties together the freedom from death with the freedom from slavery to sin. I think the freedom from fear is tied to these freedoms by passages such as 1 Corinthians 16:55-57, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The freedom from death does not mean that we will not die physically. But, since Jesus went before us and literally conquered death, one of the many ways that we are now like him is this: Death no longer has mastery over us.
Look at this wonder. In Christ, death no longer has mastery over you. It is sort of the reverse of YOLO, You Only Live Once, you know the saying going around nowadays, to encourage people to live it up, for tomorrow we die. In a way, that can be a form of denial which, in the name of being fearless, can just propel people into a life even more driven by the frenzy of the fear of death. Acting from our fear of death brings sin, even more death/separation. In fact it is the base of all sin. It all started in the Garden, when Adam and Even first acted out from their fear that God was holding out on them, and thus they took things into their own hands, and as a result received the very thing they feared, but up until that point did not understand. I’d rather have a lack of my own understanding and control.
But in Christ, the second Adam, death no longer has mastery over me. If Jesus does not return before then, I will die. But that fact does not have mastery over me. I don’t have to be caught into the frenzy and slavery of getting while the getting’s good because I’m going to die. Yes, I can act like I do. But the truth is, the truth that we can stand in, is this, “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) Should we sin that grace may abound? May it never be! (Romans 6:1-2) Later in Galatians 5:13 it reminds us, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love.” After all, indulging in the sinful nature is not freedom! It is putting ourselves under the slavery of sin and being our own king over our small self-manufactured world because of the fear of death.
So there is the freedom from. What about the freedom to? I love how verse 13 ends, “…rather serve one another in love.” It all comes back to love. That’s where our freedom comes from, from the love of God (John 3:16, John 15:9-13). A life rooted from God’s love will flow forth in fruits of love. Because of God’s love for us through Jesus, we have life and can live a life of love. And free from fear! 1 John 4:16-19 says, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
That’s the only freedom that we can truly stand fast in, no matter what. The freedom that we have in Jesus. Don’t crucify Christ again by putting/keeping yourself under the lie that you have to keep on paying for this true freedom. Time is short. Live already free. Don’t let the distractions and restrictions of the world around you take your eyes off of that freedom you have in Jesus. It is a matter of true life.