I’ve been studying the idea of freedom for a book project. It’s a hot topic these days. Recent court decisions seem to be encroaching on what have always been understood as settled religious liberties. Immigration debates, right to access to confidential information, free speech in social media, decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, and a number of other moral, social, and political issues are tied in some way to how we understand the idea of freedom.
The World’s Song of Freedom
As part of my research, I put together a streaming playlist of songs about freedom. By the time I was done collecting, I had about 200 songs. After listening to them in the background of my study, I’ve composed a little free verse poem from the lyrics that have bored into my brain over the past few months. Maybe we can get a handle on the meaning of freedom—at least what pop/rock/hip hop/country/reggae/folk/punk/metal tell me freedom means. It goes something like this.
It’s a great day for freedom.
Freedom comes in a flash. It comes in a fight. It comes in a bottle.
It comes if we wait for it. It comes if we grab it when we can.
Freedom tastes like reality. It feels like a bluebird flying by me.
Freedom shouts from the mountaintops. It’s an open sail on a distant shore.
Freedom is marijuana trees blowing in the breeze.
Freedom is a road and a truck to drive on it. Or a drive on the freeway of love in a pink Cadillac.
But if you’re looking for the devil he’s out on Freedom’s Road.
Freedom is a simple song the whole world should be singing.
It’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
People got to be free. Find the cost of freedom.
Stand your ground and ring the bells of freedom.
Gaze upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
Watch the flags of freedom flying.
Did I tell you I just want to be free?
Your love will free me. But if you love somebody, you’ve got to set them free.
I’ve got to break free from love.
I’m free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free.
I’m free and easy. I’m wild and free. I’m running free. I’m free falling.
I won’t stop till I find my freedom.
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.
The Word’s Song of Freedom
As Christians we must wrestle with the meaning of freedom. We aren’t far off from experiencing cultural opposition (if not persecution) for doing things society used to applaud us for, like evangelism, promoting family values, and faithfully preaching the Bible. But there are other freedom fights we face as well. How will we stand with those whose freedom is denied by oppression in other parts of the world? In what ways does being a disciple of Jesus clash or contend with being a patriotic American? And, maybe closest to home for each of us as individuals, what is the practical, down to earth, daily grind impact of the words of Jesus: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)?
There is one unexpected thing I’ve discovered in my study. The words of my free form poem above are often much more in line with my day-to-day definition of freedom than the words of Scripture. My theology grounds me in confidence that the work of Christ on my behalf as held forth in the gospel has freed me from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ. But turning that gospel reality into daily reality is met by a lot of culturally supported fleshly opposition. I’ve learned that while my culture increasingly opposes the religious freedoms I hold dear, at the same time it supports the fleshly freedoms I hold dear as well. My quest for freedom needs to begin in my own heart. I want my freedom cry to be the words of Peter:
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).
The words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones are worth pondering as we consider how to live as the free servants of God in this world.
“The Christian is a (person) whose every action should be performed in the light of this intimate relationship to God. He is not, as it were, a free agent. He is a child of God, so that everything he does, he does from this standpoint of being well-pleasing in His sight. That is why the Christian, of necessity, should view everything that happens to him in this world entirely differently from everybody else” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 20).
Join the Conversation
What is your everyday experience of freedom? When you think about freedom what first comes to your mind? What cultural voices have a shaping influence on how you think about freedom?
If someone asked you, “What does the Bible say about freedom?” would you know how to answer? What shapes your view of how you exercise personal freedoms in your life?