Freedom; according to Christianity

The term, “freedom” can be abused to mean what it doesn’t advocate. Every human being needs freedom. But there have been incidences of entanglement into more slavery, by those in the quest for freedom. A typical example is that of the French Revolution, where people assumed that freedom meant lawlessness. Those people’s behaviour landed them up into being under the dictatorship of Napoleon the Emperor.

There cannot be freedom without responsibility. The codes of conduct by humanity are meant to ensure that everyone observes the agreed law, so as to experience freedom from criminality. The matter of agreement among humans has remained a conundrum. People see things differently, as coming from different backgrounds.

The Constitution of the United States of America embraces freedom, described according to avoidance of impingement on other people’s rights. In other words, one is as free as marrying a dog, as long as not infringing on other people’s rights. This, of course, has caused the USA to be at loggerheads with religious extremists. That freedom removes barriers, as long as not infringing other people’s rights.

People are free to even worship the devil, as long as not infringing on other people’s rights. This is why the USA is a haven for homosexuals. Churches have to bend rules, prescribed according to denominational viewpoints. One sees some semblances of confusion but would be unable to sue, as long as construed as violating other people’s rights.

The underlying principle would be to grant freedom to American citizens. Love them or hate them, you have a right to conduct your life freely, in America. Recently, a brother and sister were said to have been granted the right to marry. Disgusting as this may be to some, the American constitution forbids discriminating against such people.

Jesus declared that He came to grant freedom. He quoted a passage of Scripture that insinuated the granting of liberty to humanity. In other words, Jesus could not be accused of advocating lawlessness as He quoted an appropriate Scriptural to that endeavour.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21 NIV).

American freedom is different from Biblical freedom. We have to unpack what Jesus meant in the above passage of Scripture. The definition of freedom implies removing any form of restrictions, on a person’s conduct. A person has to be allowed to be him/herself.

Going by the definition of freedom, anything goes, except killing another person. This has caused some people to freely drop out of attending Church services. Others have opted to marry as many wives as desired or marry animals, as highlighted previously. That freedom also grants choosing not to be a Christian.

The American Constitution allows conducting one’s life without anyone superintending. But there is a difference between USA freedom and the one prescribed by Jesus. In Jesus, there is more freedom than is provided by the American Constitution. Jesus never proselytized people to follow Him, but emphasized counting the costs, to those attempting to follow Him.

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:25-33 NIV).

Freedom requires responsibility. Jesus made it clear that anyone deciding to follow Him needed to understand the principle of responsibility. This is just as freedom allows one to touch a hot stove but bear the responsibility, after burning one’s finger. Those following Jesus were not coerced but followed freely.

The majority were convenient followers. Jesus observed that most of them were not aware of the significance of following Him. Hence, He plainly cautioned them to appreciate the responsibility embodying the decision to follow Him.

Otherwise, they had the freedom not to follow Him. The majority of them were devoted to the Jewish religion. Jesus never advised them to abandon their religious convictions. Others may have not been associated with any religion, but with the freedom to do what they liked.

The idea of renouncing all possessions, including one’s family, grants a different form of freedom. It releases one from worldly concerns, including dissociating from the pleasurable desires of this world. The package of living according to the desires of the flesh would have all been surrendered.

Authoritarian structures in most Christian Churches do not prescribe freedom, as denoted by Jesus. Congregants, commonly grant authority to religious leaders, rather than to Jesus. Others even suggest restrictions that were not imposed by Jesus, on their followers. Strangely, more restrictions, than those imposed by the Jews, were mostly advocated by those assumed to be Christian followers.

Those of this world prefer bondage to freedom. The existence of denominational groupings is a testimony of preferring slavery over freedom. Christ’s terms of freedom require ceasing to be of this world.

The People of this world ought to mourn those choosing to be Christians, as having ceased to be of this world. Christianity grants one the opportunity to be God’s child. That type of freedom is clearly spelt out below:

“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.  And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12 NIV).

This describes the type of freedom to be enjoyed, in Christianity. Imagine not being answerable to anyone, but to God. No longer calling anyone “father” on earth, but behaving like Jesus, recognizing God only, as the Father. But this also releases one from exercising authority over others but being free to serve without obligation.

All the dos and don’ts would have been removed, but thinking and behaving like God. That condition removes one from the obligation of worrying about survival issues. The person may be severely persecuted, but without taking offence, as having eliminated all worldly concerns.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire splendour was dressed like one of these. 

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25-33 NIV).

The last verse sums it all up. Seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, entitles one to be God’s child. The person enjoys the marvellous privileges of being God’s child. This includes not being forced to work, or else not surviving. Survival concerns would no longer be of concern to one.

That person cannot even be worried about losing physical life. His major concern is avoiding reverting to worldly concerns. Rather than be fearful of death, one looks forward to death, as releasing physical pain. That type of freedom is far more than can be imagined in this world.

God’s righteousness, as absent in this world, would be the only bother. God’s children are grieved by existing injustices, but not intimidated, when within the capacity to confront them. Those of this world might regard such a person as inviting problems to himself. However, the person would not be inviting problems, but addressing problems, aiming at seeing justice prevail.

This would be a person who sees things as God sees them. The person would grieve where God grieves and pleased where God would be pleased. There would be no difference between how the person views things and how God views them. The only difference between him and God is that he is privileged to pray when facing seemingly insurmountable challenges.

“But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son-ship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:10-16 NIV).

The above passage grants the type of freedom that the United States of America cannot grant. The freedom granted by the United States of America continues to leave its citizens exposed to danger. The notorious 9/11 terrorist attack has forever remained to be a testimony to that possibility.

The freedom granted by Jesus is that a person does not even worry about his safety. He may not even need expensive security measures to protect himself. The USA is ever aiming at galvanizing its nuclear arsenal, for security reasons, but is unable to live without fear of possible attack.

Therefore, let it be known, Christianity is not part of what goes on in this world. True Christians are not worried about their security, more than they worry about the overriding evil. Their prayer is limited to desiring God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven; thereby not taking sides.

The spectre of a Third World war, with the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction, is debilitating to contemplate. But God’s children are not perturbed as much as ordinary people are perturbed. God’s children are fully cognizant of the reactive mind, currently gripping humanity. They sustain their freedom by hoping for the establishment of God’s Kingdom.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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