the human spirit longs for it; people steal for it, go broke for it, even murder for it…and then there are people who actually fight for it and find it. This may come off as a strange or mysterious way to describe this cosmic battle. But as all things must, we will view this through the lens of spiritual understanding. Most take for granted that freedom is a good thing. There are exceptions to this rule. Mainly you find them in people who want to take away others’ freedom. Or else people who have a sycophantic view of those tyrants. But you will find in the main-stream human being, a general acknowledgment of the virtues of liberty.
What we can’t seem to find a consensus on however, is the means by which liberty is achieved. Or to what degree we should limit it for the protection of the masses. And as we explore the idea of liberty, we discover that it gets even more complicated.
What I am referring to is this: that there is external freedom and there is internal freedom. Also that it is possible to have one without the other, and yet they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. External freedom, and the lack thereof, is a concept that has been around since the beginning of man. It has been fought over, and disputed for about as long. In this day and age there are probably few people who are not aware of internal freedom and bondage. However, it has not been a subject of dispute for as long as external freedom, though people have been seeking internal liberty for just as long. It is this internal freedom that people vastly disagree on how to attain. It is of external liberty that people debate as to what dosage it is safe to administer to a society.
So having laid the foundation, lets explore each of these concepts and see how they intertwine. And we’ll see what God’s plan is in each one, or both together. The fact is, it was not until relatively recently that both of these types freedoms flourished together in large portions of the world. Since Christ’s resurrection, internal freedom has been available to all who draw from Him. He offers it to the one who submits to Him completely.
This sounds paradoxical, and is precisely why much of the world trips up over how to attain internal freedom. Many buy into the notion that internal freedom comes from doing as their nature desires. The problem is, man has a flawed nature, compromised thousands of years ago, which means we can no longer trust it. It was compromised to a deceiver, one who counterfeits everything God creates, including freedom.
Since human nature is corrupt, it can only lead to more corruption, which is in no way conducive to liberty. Just the opposite, it will lead to misery and bondage. Look at a child for example, if left to their inherent human nature, they will fulfill all their desires. But they are without fail, worse for having done so. They will become unhappy, fretful, and angry since their natural desires are corrupt. Most people recognize this, and will at an early stage take steps to stem the flow of corrupt activity in their child. However, many fail to extrapolate from this and apply it to their own lives. We are children of God and only His nature in us can lead us to internal freedom.
Yes, God is the inventor of freedom, despite all the arguments to the contrary. Some religious people argue against it because they have an idea of a very restrictive, and repressive God. Secular people will argue against it because of these religious people. This exemplifies the importance of our ambassadorship for God, meaning that however we relate to God, is how a lot of people in the world will view Him to be.
Besides being the inventor of internal freedom, I also believe He is the creator of external freedom. By this I do not mean the freedom to do wrong, though we obviously have the ability and freedom to make wrong choices (which will lead to internal bondage). I simply mean that in an ideal society, people are free to do as they please, with only minimal restriction, since what pleases them, also pleases the One whom they serve. That is, as I said, in an ideal society. Now take a society that is not ideal; one that has collectively left God and gone its own way. For them, external freedom is not a viable option, and neither is internal freedom for most, since their corrupt nature is governing their choices.
Groups like this need external restrictions, to keep society functioning in a some-what stable fashion, and to mask over the internal turmoil of the majority of their people. That is all external restriction will achieve though, and our purpose is much greater. We were made to flourish in creativity, and Godly pursuits, not just existing in a society that is some-what stable because of external restrictions.
Israel was without centralized governmental authority for centuries when they came into the promised land. The reason? God was their king. When the United States was founded, it was structured in such a way as to decentralize authority, and to guarantee vast liberties to its citizens. Also, the U.S. was founded on a covenant with God, led by George Washington, similar to the founding of Israel. In both cases, God was at the apex of cultural acknowledgement, and admiration, and in both cases, external liberty flourished, and of course, so did internal liberty, for those who truly let God bring it about in their lives. It is certainly possible to lack internal freedom in a free society, and to posses it under a tyrannical regime, but I find it to be a true blessing to have both available to us.
For those living under despotic rule, internal freedom is achieved in surrender to Christ Jesus. This is something their rulers can never take away from them, and they probably cherish it more because of their lack of outward liberties. There is no doubt that internal freedom is the more important of the two, and is available to all who will receive it.
This is great news, but I have found that some people use this, and the fact that “this world is not our home,” as an excuse not to fight for societal liberties. I believe this is misguided, and a little lazy, especially in America, where the foundation is already laid. Just because God makes the most of a bad situation does not mean it is wise to become negligent. In fact, I see this as putting God to the test. I say prioritize internal freedom, which is attained by the power of Christ, and do not neglect to patiently fight for external liberty as well.
I believe we need Christians in every part of society, doing the work of the Lord; fighting corruption, and evil on every level. We need to speak what is true, not mistaking passion or principle for hate, or softness of speech for love. Just because this world is not our home, does not mean we cannot bring various aspects of heaven to earth. The Bible says to pray that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. If we are diligent in doing our bit to bringing this about, we can enjoy the great gift of God; freedom, both internal and external.
2 Corinthians 3:17—Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. ESV