After serving a nearly three-year prison sentence, a pastor in Tajikistan was finally released last year. His crime? Singing “extremist” songs based on Bible passages like Ephesians 6:12.
I don’t know what it’s like to go to prison for any reason, let alone for my faith—but I suspect this brother may have been freer during his time in prison than other folks who’ve never been behind bars.
Freedom. What comes to mind when you see that word?
As Americans, we’re blessed with the ability to worship as we choose, speak freely even when we disagree with the government, and publish our thoughts and beliefs.
I’m very thankful for these types of freedoms. I also believe real freedom goes deeper than the lifting of certain restrictions.
Here’s how Jesus explained it:
“Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” –John 8:34-36
Biblically speaking, freedom is not synonymous with independence, autonomy or anarchy. It doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want.
In fact, the opposite is true. When we find true freedom in Christ, we are no longer bound to do what our selfish nature drives us to do!
“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” –Isaiah 61:1-2
Do you hear the hope in this passage?
As wonderful as it is to be released from a literal prison, Jesus came to do more than this. The freedom He offers affects every level of our being.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. – 2 Corinthians 3:17
Real freedom is evidence of real faith. It empowers us to live unselfishly, trusting that the same God who delivered us from besetting sin will also take care of us in every way.
“For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.” – Gal. 5:13
Rather than using our liberty in Christ to fulfill selfish desires, we use it to bless others. Instead of reveling in our ability to do as we wish, we look for ways to enrich the lives of other people.
This last December, my husband was standing in line at the bank when he overheard a man muttering about how much he hates the Christmas season.
When Scott finished his transaction, he felt impressed to wait for the man outside. They had a short conversation during which the Holy Spirit led Scott to bless this man with a bit of cash.
At first, he refused. Scott explained,
“No, this is God’s money. He wants you to have it. Please let me be obedient and give it to you.”
Finally, the man accepted, eyes glistening with tears. It wasn’t a huge amount of money. He just needed to know God cared about him.
Defined the American way, “freedom” would say, “I can do whatever I want with my money.” Defined by the Bible, freedom says, “I can do what God wants me to do with what He has given me.”
Seeing my husband’s radiant face as he recounted what happened, I can tell you which kind of freedom brings more joy.
How have you found joy in real freedom?