While our outward expressions of freedom we Christians should remember;
1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT2)7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (emphasis mine)
When you become a Christian, Jesus set you free. But what does that freedom really mean, and how is it different from the freedom we celebrate on Independence Day? If you want to cultivate a heart that is centered on the love of God, it is important to consider what the Bible has to say on the topic of Christian liberty.
Christian Liberty Focuses More on Interdependence Than Independence
When God created the heavens and the earth, He made a point of declaring all of his creation good.
Genesis 1:31 (NLT2)31 Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.
However God declared that it was not good for Adam, the man He created, to be alone.
Genesis 2:18 (NLT2)18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
It’s interesting that God decided that mankind is interdependent by design. We have been created to depend on both God and each other.
Now let’s take America. We think that Independence is a strong American ideal. We praise each other for independent thinking. We are often encouraged to act independently without considering the needs of the people around us.
What we find however is that the wisdom of God is counterintuitive to the wisdom of man.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT2)8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (NLT2)18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.”20 And again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”
God's call to interdependence is repeated throughout the New Testament. The church is a truly interdependent body.
Romans 12:5 (NLT2)5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT2)27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT2)16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
The biblical picture of a healthy community of believers is a single body. Each part of the body is unique and vital, but all the parts are completely dependent on each other. Loving God well means accepting our dependence on Him and His body, the church.
We tend to think of independence as a sign of strength and dependence as a sign of weakness. You may feel uncomfortable as you begin to think of yourself as interdependent rather than independent. But as you shift your thinking to embrace the biblical standard of interdependence, you will grow in love and compassion.
Interdependence doesn’t only mean that you resign yourself to your dependence on others, but it also means that you choose to become a person others can depend upon.
It’s natural to think of liberty as the freedom to do as we please. However, Christian liberty empowers us to live in our freedom the right way. We love to repeat;
2 Corinthians 3:17 (NLT2)17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
But as we continue to read, we see that the freedom we have in God’s presence isn’t the kind of freedom we often idolize. But there is a purpose in our freedom and it’s so that we become transformed into the image of Jesus which is God’s purpose for us.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT2)18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
Romans 8:29 (NLT2)29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
The freedom we have in God liberates us from sin, selfishness, and any oppression that would interfere with our transformation into the image of Christ.
Christian liberty does not signal our individualism. It is not concerned with offering us the ‘freedom to be ourselves.’ Instead, as we focus on the gifts that Christ’s death and resurrection have purchased for us. The liberty we have received will gradually make us less ourselves...and more like the God we love and serve.
What Should Liberty Look Like?
In our culture, liberty often looks like an insistence on our freedom of speech, protests, acts of defiance, or an assertion that our rights be honored. In short, our experience of liberty is riddled with our fear that it might be taken from us.
However, Christian liberty is so confident in its freedom that it is willing to submit to others.
When we feel insecure in our freedom, it’s natural for us to turn liberty into an inward-facing ideal. When liberty feels guaranteed, it opens the door to virtue, allowing us to choose, in our free will, to love and bless people beyond ourselves, submitting to them willingly because our liberty is secure in Christ.
Galatians 5:13 (NLT2)13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13 illustrates this shift from liberty that is self-focused to liberty that reaches outward. It says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.”
We know that Christ’s death and resurrection have set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-14,) but we don’t always know how to live well as Christians who don’t have a law or set of rules to follow. Sometimes, we try to set our own personal rules of good behavior rather than learning what it looks like to live in Christian liberty.
Galatians 5 encourages us to live in the freedom Christ purchased for us and not try to go back to following the law. But if the law doesn’t matter anymore, what does? In Galatians 5:6, we learn that, “the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.”
Liberty Looks Like Faith Expressing Itself through Love and Service
Rather than trying to prove our righteousness by returning to a law that Christ already fulfilled, liberty looks like faith expressing itself through love.
So, this July 4th, enjoy your celebration however you do it. But take some time to reflect on the difference between the nationalist brand of liberty we’ve grown accustomed to, and the humbling nature of the supernatural liberty we have been offered in Christ.
Ask yourself how your view of American liberty may have interfered with God’s calling for you to embrace interdependence, be transformed into His image, and willingly submit yourself to others as you love and serve them. As you focus on Christian liberty, you may even begin to notice the people around you who have suffered from the limits of our American definition of liberty.
Considering others in a new way may cause you to be a little less showy about your individual liberty and a little more focused on the internal changes that are naturally prompted by true Christian liberty.