During the last week and a half, I had the opportunity of touring several battlefields from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Relics of history filled the museums and battlefields--cannon, muskets, rifles, bayonets, canteens, uniforms, etc. Each site was marked with ample monuments reflecting who fought where and who died where. With an obviously limited budget, the National Park Service did a fabulous job of presentation and upkeep on these sites.
As I reflected on our drive back to Texas, I began to think about the cause of these momentous wars in the history of the United States. Both boil down to rights and freedom. The colonists fought for the right to be free of heavy tax burdens imposed by the British government. They fought for freedom from tyranny. The Confederate States fought for states' rights--for the right of each state to dictate the laws it would live under outside of the basic guidelines of the Constitution. The Union fought for a united country and the rights of the larger government as a whole. Their fight would also lead to the abolition of slavery.
These reflections on freedom ultimately led me to what Paul said of freedom that "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). The author of Psalm 119 proclaimed that he walked about in freedom because he had sought out the precepts of God (v45). Isaiah and later Jesus proclaiming prophesy fulfilled said that he had come "to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1). From these passages we infer that true freedom is found in God alone through Christ the fulfillment of the Law. Therefore, I cannot help but think that the freedom that we often fight for, bleed for, is a freedom that is but a dim reflection of the freedom that is offered to us in Christ. It is a freedom found in democracy, in capitalism, in economic security, in education--noble causes for sure but none bring true freedom.
When I think across the centuries of people who have exhibited this kind of freedom, the cases that come most to mind are those of people who by every external sense seem to be in the most bondage. Of Daniel who found freedom to worship despite the threat of death by lion. Of Stephen who proclaimed the true gospel despite the threat of stones and death. Of Paul who continued to boldly proclaim the truth despite numerous near death experiences and imprisonment. Of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who did not loose faith despite the best efforts of his Nazis torturers. Of Martin Luther King, Jr. who rallied the people for justice and peace despite daily threat on his life and the lives of all those closest to him. These and others like them, exhibited freedom not of this world but freedom found in Christ when pressed into the most dire of circumstances.
I question what freedom that I most often choose to live under. Is it the freedom of religion? Or the freedom of speech? The freedom of a global market? The freedom of upward mobilization? The freedom to vote? The freedom of equality? What freedom do I chose, and is that freedom merely a ghost of the true freedom in Christ that is in turn freely offered to all who believe?
Freedom is a concept that I believe is innate in human nature. We have a deep longing for freedom. We desire to return to that state of freedom that was available to us before sin entered the world. It is this freedom we were created for. That same freedom is now found in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore we should cling to it. Live from it and within it. We now have the opportunity to chose a better freedom.