It is with great joy and a sense of relief that Christians celebrate the freedom found in the sacrifice of Christ. There is no shame in such a celebration. After all, Jesus promised freedom by way truth (John 8:32) and James even called the law of Christ the law of liberty(Jam. 1:25). It is that promise of liberty that draws us to Christ in the first place. As slaves in and to sin, men made in the image of God long for emancipation. Once obtained, nothing in this world should be alluring enough to cause us to give up that freedom.
Yet, this freedom means neither autonomy nor total independence. Christians are expected to live, “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16). It would seem that some Christians in the early church were using their liberty as a platform to cast off responsibilities enjoined on them through other relationships outside of Christ. So, early church writers wrote to address these matters. Christian wives were still bound to and under the authority of their non-Christian husbands (1 Pet. 1:3-6). Christian slaves were still bound to non-Christian, harsh masters (1 Pet. 2:18). Christian citizens were still to respect, honor, and obey oppressive governments (1 Pet. 2:13-15). While it is true that their relationship to Christ superseded any other relationship (Act 5:29; Matt. 12:46-50); that did not mean that there were free to do whatever we wish with those secondary relationships.
If we are not careful, we will struggle with the same temptation – to use our position in Christ to cast off rules, regulations, and obligations that seem unnecessary or frivolous since we are now married to Christ, in the family of God, and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. The simple truth of the matter is that in Christ, “not one of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself” (Rom. 14:8).
This struggle is intensified living in the “land of the free.” We have been taught from an early age that our freedoms were forged out of sacrifice and must be maintained at all costs. Blood procured them and it has also preserved them. It is bleak to consider what our lives would be like if we lost those “unalienable rights” (even though not all in our country had them from the beginning). So, we rally. We defend. We post. We share. All in an attempt to keep the freedoms that define us as Americans. If we are not careful, we will do all of this to the disregard of our responsibilities in Christ. In Christ, we are enslaved. We are not free in every sense of the world and the liberty that we do in enjoy does not negate the debt we owe as spiritual free men.
I feel that it should not be necessary, but I will pause for a moment of clarification. I am not, in any way, arguing against the value of American freedom any more than I am suggesting that our liberation in Christ is not a divinely given blessing. However, to shrug off or fight against complying with government ordinances because I am free is neither justifiable nor defensible. Furthermore, refusing to yield, to follow the lead of elders, or in any other way putting my needs over the needs of my neighbor because “it’s a free country” actually makes a mockery of the freedom found in Christ. Our freedom in Christ enslaves us to many things.
We are enslaved to Christ (1 Cor. 7:22; Rom. 6:16) and in some situations, we are enslaved to others. Our freedom in Christ can also mean that we are enslaved to…
- The needs of the weak: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1)
- The needs of our brethren: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3–4)
- The needs of our spouse: “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
- The needs of our children: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” (Colossians 3:21)
- The rule of law and those who enforce those laws: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
- The wisdom and leadership of local elders: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
Anarchy, lawlessness, rebellion, and self-autonomy are characteristics of a self-centered, self-serving society. Disciples, submission, consideration, faithfulness, and sacrifice should accurately describe the life of God’s people. Thank God for the freedom found in Christ. May we ever use it as bondservants of Him.