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When Freedom Is Actually Slavery

November 11, 2015

In many ways and on various holidays, our nation celebrates freedom. Freedom to worship God in public places without restrictions, freedom to believe various worldviews, freedom of speech, freedom to vote and participate in democracy – the list goes on and on. Praise God for the United States of America, a country benefiting in more ways than one from the freedom gifted to its citizens through the Constitution, reigning governmental powers, and armed forces. Most of these are freedoms to celebrate.

At the same time, there is another “freedom” we have glorified that has ironically led us into greater depths of slavery. This is a so-called freedom that encourages rebellion against God at the cost of our very souls.

One Nation Under God?

Think about it. We pledge (or at least we used to) of “one nation under God,” yet we have decided that we’d rather have a nation “under ourselves,” under our own human authority. We have trusted in our own ability to decide what is right and wrong, our judgment based on changing cultural tides rather than the unchanging nature of Almighty God.

The “one nation under God” phrase confesses our inability to rule ourselves, along with our need for God’s authority, power, and wisdom to reign over us. Our world has fallen to sin and brokenness because our natural inclination is not to submit to God or to live in his light and purity. Why is it that my first response when someone hurts me is to hurt them back? Because of this natural inclination that originates with the Fall in the garden.

I need Someone to change my heart and rule me. We as humans need help from the outside because we cannot change ourselves or trust in our own authority. We need a trustworthy, saving Lord.

The Irony of So-Called Freedom

Men and women can effect some wonderful change, but nothing of eternal value can be worked out apart from the Lordship of Christ. Wise decision-making processes happen, but an understanding of truth comes from God’s revealed wisdom in his Word. We may have established peace with our neighbors, while not even realizing we are waging war against the Creator because of sin. We can teach people right from wrong without acknowledging the Standard of righteousness, himself.

And, today, we are increasingly (but still unsurprisingly) seeing the brokenness that comes from our rebellion against God.

We think we are celebrating greater, truer freedoms with court decisions of past and present that give us what we want. But because what we want isn’t trustworthy on its own, these so-called freedoms are actually driving us more deeply into the slavery our hearts are crying out to be released from.

We think we are becoming more free when we are increasingly becoming less free.

Our sinful nature, our natural fallenness, is bondage. What we need is to be set free – truly free – from this bondage, and there is only one person who can do that. Jesus came to set broken sinners free from their own destructive, enslaving desires…at the cost of his life. He entered our brokenness for the purpose of taking it upon himself at the cross. Jesus absorbed God’s due justice for our wrongdoing and rebellion against his holiness. He laid down his very life so that you and I could be truly free.

The Reality of Freedom in Christ

How is this freedom achieved then? If what we call freedom is actually slavery, then what is true freedom? Freedom is humbly placing ourselves “under God” and his authority. Freedom is acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord over everything and everyone. Freedom is when we are no longer slaves to our own sin but are walking in the newness of life found in Jesus.

Freedom begins with realizing that the cost of living counter to God’s plan is not worth the cost of our very soul (Matthew 16:26). Getting what we instinctively want is not freedom. It is slavery because it leads us into death, an eternity spent apart from Christ. So slavery is giving ourselves exactly what we want, at the cost of our souls.

But freedom from slavery is realizing the misdirection, rebellion, and cost of a life lived apart from God’s plan and pursuing what God wants instead: for us to be made new creations in Christ by faith, trusting that he is able to save enslaved sinners from bondage to sin. 

God wants us to admit our inability to be good apart from Jesus, to see our true, natural state of brokenness. He wants us to behold the goodness of his Son, who took on our punishment at the cost of his own life, and trust in his ability to free us from our slavery to sin. He wants to reveal to us that the worldly gain of living counter to God’s plan is not worth the cost of our very soul.

He wants us to see that neither tradition nor following our hearts will do. He wants to lead us in the best life for us. He wants to give us actual freedom, actual life, in Jesus, who did not stay dead in the grave but rose from it, who is now seated upon the throne of heaven, ruling with authority over us all.

As Russell Moore stated so perfectly after one historical court ruling, “The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back in that tomb.”

So what freedom are you celebrating, and at what cost?

The Author
Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a writer and Bible teacher. She has previously served as content manager of Unlocking the Bible. She is the author, along with Sarah Walton, of Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering (The Good Book Company, April 2017). She blogs at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter. She and her husband Brad are parents to their sweet daughter and members of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Itasca, Ill.

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