Freedom is not libertarianism

28 June 2024

Chief Executive Andrea Williams explains that real freedom does not mean we do whatever we want, because the gospel transforms to freely live in obedience to Christ’s rule and reign

What is real freedom? Where is it found? What does it mean to live in a free society?

We often hear the terms spoken of in society: freedom of religion, freedom of expression, free speech, freedom to choose and many others.

Is that what freedom is? Being able to say or do whatever you want?

Our nation has chosen to go its own way; we have chosen not to follow God but rather our own sinful desires. We have exchanged his ways, his truth, for a lie which does not set anyone free (Romans 1).

In fact, our nation has legislated to be free to remove Jesus from the public square; no more prayers or Bibles in public places; legislated for sexual freedom to do whatever we want with whomsoever we want with our bodies; legislated for the freedom to redefine sex; redefine marriage and family and for the freedom to take the lives of our unborn children.

Well, this ends up not being freedom at all.

Real freedom is Christ

If people want a free society, we need to be a society of free people. That is – we need to be a society of those who are set free by Jesus: if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Paul outlines this clearly in Romans 6:

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:15-18 ESV)

The world is enslaved to sin. That is not freedom.

Christians are no longer enslaved to sin. We are slaves of righteousness. That is real freedom.

What does this actually mean?

We know that we are set free from the guilt of sin (1 John 1:9). Those in Christ no longer need to walk with the burden of guilt and shame for our sins. They have been forgiven by Christ. What a glorious truth in our unforgiving culture that never forgives and never forgets!

But also, importantly, we are set free from the power of sin. As Paul goes on in Romans 6:22 ESV: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

When we turn to Christ we no longer are trapped in our sinful desires. The Holy Spirit is in us empowering us to put to death our sin (Romans 8:13) and making us more like Christ (Romans 8:29-30).

Freedom in Christ isn’t freedom to do whatever we want, it is freedom to obey God. That is a far more beautiful picture of freedom.

The world’s freedom is slavery

Therefore, as we approach this election we must be careful that we do not adopt worldly assumptions of freedom.

The one extreme is we need laws for everything and that will keep us free.

The other extreme is we do not need any laws and that will keep us free.

Christians need to engage wisely to discern when we need laws and when we don’t. Not all sins are crimes.

We should be concerned about attempts to curb free speech: for example, through conversion therapy laws, hate speech laws, restrictions on gospel proclamation, restrictions on Christian schools (including adding VAT), abortion buffer zones. All of which we at Christian Concern have been combatting.

But we should not confuse this to think that blasphemy, coarse joking, vulgar language are somehow virtuous because it means we have “free speech” in society. Someone who speaks in such a way is enslaved to sin – their free speech is not really freedom. Sometimes free speech is not speaking (James 1:19; Proverbs 17:27-28).

Our speech ought to be governed by Jesus. That is the true “free speech”. So, although there are real threats to free speech that the next government should address and which Christians should be concerned about, let’s not be pulled into supporting a vision for freedom that ignores or excludes Jesus Christ himself.

There are two opposite errors Christians can be lulled into, both of which are opposed to Christ. On the one hand you see increasingly deviant sexual behaviour in the streets and schools under the name of freedom. On the other hand, we have an ever-growing state with laws and bureaucracy and regulation and safeguarding; where the state says “it is not safe for you to make your own decisions – we need to make them for you.”

Of course, we support legislating against abortion because abortion kills children. The law should protect the vulnerable. We should oppose legislating against free speech – not because all unfettered speech is good, but because we love our neighbour; we want to tell them the gospel and the state has a responsibility to promote what is good (1 Peter 2:13).

A Christian vision for society is one where the gospel is at the heart, transforming lives to live freely under Christ’s rule and reign, obeying his beautiful commands.

That is real freedom.

 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

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