As I reflect on this past week’s holiday, I’m convinced there’s not a word that holds such a diversity of meanings as the word “freedom.”
Our celebration of the Fourth of July is rightly designed to remind us of the hard-fought establishment of our country, replete with its “bombs bursting in air.” But for the rest of the year, the word “freedom” takes on a variety of meanings, depending on personal contextualization.
For example, when my African American friends consider freedom, they may not think about the American Revolution, but rather the Civil War and the sinful oppression of slavery their ancestors endured, or the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s which characterized yet another step towards full emancipation.
When my immigrated Bosnian friends consider freedom, they remember the way things were, long before the brutal “ethnic cleansing” of the 90s that stained asphalt with the blood of their children. Freedom for them cannot be fully realized here in the states. Instead, it’s a passing shadow — a sometimes painful reminder of what they once held in their own homeland and culture.
For others, freedom means railing against authority and the rule of law, both God’s and man’s. Two weeks ago, the state of Arkansas installed a stone monument inscribed with the familiar biblical Ten Commandments. It wasn’t 24 hours before an individual purposefully drove his car into it, toppling and destroying the stonework while broadcasting his actions on Facebook Live. The word he shouted as he stepped on the accelerator? You guessed it: “Freeeeeeeedom!!!!”
It is unlikely that someone in search of freedom from authority might say, “Let me pursue religion.” Religion is rightly associated with hardline rules, regulatory statutes and sadly even with oppression and control. The entirety of the world’s major religious constructs all have the same basic theoretical framework: in order to please God, or in order to reach enlightenment and find true happiness, there are a very specific set of guidelines or rules that must be adhered to. Keeping the rules is largely dependent on the piety or the diligent work of the adherent.
That is, all religions except for one. Author and theologian Dr. Timothy Keller recently tweeted, “Most religions say the door is at the end of the road. Christianity says that the door is the beginning of the road.”
In other words, Christianity doesn’t say “do.” It says “done.” Those Ten Commandments that were contentiously toppled over in Arkansas were only ever perfectly fulfilled by one person. The good news of the Gospel says that not only did Jesus fulfill the law perfectly, but his perfections are now appliedto us. By virtue of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus won for us the ultimate freedom — from death, from the curse and from the impossible work of pleasing God on our own. It starts and ends with faith in Him.
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. I’m beyond thankful for the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States, and for the men and women who have won those freedoms and given their lives to protect them. As you reflect on the past week, don’t miss the opportunity to consider the freedom that has been won for you in Christ.