Written By: R.A. Goodnight
“ . . . that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into this freedom and glory of the children of God.”Romans 8:21 NLT
Liberty has been a topic of importance since the earliest days of this country. Quotes such as “Give me liberty or give me death,” as well as the quote in our title have garnered much attention through the years. I would wager the true source of life, liberty and happiness have become misunderstood, especially with our current generations. Or maybe, less misunderstood and more misappropriated.
This month liberty will be our focus. As Christians, how much importance should we place upon liberty? Does the Bible give any direction in relation to this topic? In our next issue, we will focus on happiness. Everyone wants to be happy, but how can we truly be happy? In the final piece in the series, we will focus on life and how liberty and happiness, as we’ve defined them, play a pivotal role.
What is Liberty?
We start our discussion with a secular definition of liberty. Oxford dictionary defines liberty as “The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.” As implied in the definition, liberty would be synonymous with freedom and antonymous with oppression.
Although I agree with this definition, I believe it is fatally incomplete. This definition leaves out the spiritual requirements necessary to becoming a truly liberated soul. Examples of spiritual liberty would include liberation from sin and death, oppressions that none of us can free another from except through Christ. Due to this additional element, it would be important for us to introduce the biblical narrative into our discussion as it addresses both the secular aspects of liberty along with the spiritual aspects.
Is Liberty in the Bible?
The idea of liberty is central to the entire narrative of the Bible. In a previous article, I asked the question, “What was the theme of the Bible?” We answered with, “The King and His Kingdom.” It helps us to understand the Bible better if we read it in the context of its theme. Accordingly, it is of equal importance if we answered two related questions: Have you ever asked yourself ‘why was the Bible written,’ or even better, ‘to whom was it written’?
Many people answer these two questions with a simple response, “It was written for us so we know what God wants.” This is true (even though I would respond to you with “What does God want?”), but this answer is also incomplete. A more accurate answer is:
- The Bible was written for the oppressed—the whom.
- The Bible was written to explain to the oppressed how their liberation would come—the why.
- Combining these ideas together at a higher level, the oppressed (the whom) will be liberated (the why) by The King and His Kingdom (the overall theme of the Bible).
And as a bonus, we also answered “What does God want?” He wants you to be free, to be liberated. To help you see how that can happen, He wrote you twenty-seven letters collectively referred to as the Bible.
Now we begin to understand the Bible in its “symphonic harmony,” if you will—from Genesis to Revelation—and its meaning for us as a whole: We are oppressed and God has a plan to liberate us.
From Oppression to Liberation
The creation account (Genesis 1-2) tells us that, in the beginning, all of creation existed in a state of liberty. Everything God created was good and all creation worked in harmony with each other for the benefit of the other, but we then see the fall occur. The serpent, through a lie, introduces oppression into human existence. And, as we move through biblical history, we see oppression compound as the human family grows. Examples of such oppression would be the Israelites as slaves to Egypt, their exile in Babylon, and their existence under Roman dominion and pharisaic rule.
More important to our conversation is how we see God react to that oppression with provisions to liberate His people. In the beginning, immediately after the fall, He issues the first Messianic Prophecy—the coming liberation from sin and death. (Genesis 3:15) Later, we see him use Moses and Aaron to free the nation from slavery. He uses Cyrus to free them from Babylonian captivity. Eventually, He sends His son in fulfillment of that first prophecy.
Beyond the liberation of his chosen nation, God shows his desire for the liberation of individuals as well. After God forms Israel into a nation, He gave them laws to help suppress individual oppression from occurring in Israelite society. For example, He commanded the provision for the jubilee year. Through this provision, everyone’s debts were forgiven them every 50th year or upon the death of the high priest (foreshadowing Christ). What a wise provision to help maintain a level of equality throughout the nation. Other examples of such laws were:
- The provision of gleaning (leaving some crops for the poor) (Leviticus 19:9,10)
- The treatment of immigrants—those that were allowed into the land (Exodus 22:21)
- Letting the land lie fallow (Exodus 23:10,11)
- Sacrificial provisions for those with less money (Leviticus 5:7-11)
This same pattern is carried forward to the Christian congregations and observed in first century Christian’s dealings with those in need, those affected by natural disasters and how they treated those who were orphans and widows. Lastly, in the Bible’s finale, we see ultimate liberty restored to all through the events of Revelation.
The pattern is clear, and God has not changed. (Malachi 3:6 NIV “I the Lord do not change . . .”) He wants you to be free and political, economic and spiritual liberty will be among the grand achievements of God’s Kingdom. But, that is future state. What mark then, should this understanding have on us today? How can we enjoy a degree of liberty now?
Christians and Liberty Today
Satan stands in opposition to any form of liberty. Oppression is his tool. This is why we see today’s liberties coming under attack at an accelerated rate. The Bible reminds us that Satan has the ability to transform himself into an angel of light, the ability to deceive those who are not looking for his tactics. We have seen him use this tactic before. “You will not die,” he said, “ . . . you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5 NIV) But this was not true. He transformed the truth; he became an “angel of light” and deceived the first human pair into a decision that led to their oppression.
Today, this same oppression tactic is alive and well. It could be disguised in the form of women’s rights, (it’s your right to get rid of that inconvenient child in you) modern views on sexuality (have sex with whomever you want) or the acceptance that religious beliefs are actually hateful (Christians must hate homosexuals because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman). In some forms, these rights and freedom bring about very oppressive ideas. If we choose these, they do not free us, but bind us to the negative consequences of those decisions. This bondage is not what God wants for us.
So, what can we do?
God’s call encourages us to stand strong and to reject the “wisdom” of this world. First, we should free ourselves from our own oppressive beliefs and vices with which we bind ourselves. Remember, some of what you are seeing suggested on the news is likely a tool of oppression used by Satan himself. Next we should carry God’s view of liberty to those we meet. He appeals to awake and mature Christians to take a stand and tear down the belief systems that are oppressing our women and children. He calls us to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, fight for those that are less fortunate than us. Be an agent of God’s Kingdom and work to liberate as many as we can from the grip of this backwards world. Hold fast to our hope that soon “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
“Serve the king…protect the people. Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.” Godfrey of Ibelin – Kingdom of Heaven
I would consider it a privilege to hear from any of the readers. Reach out to me, share your stories. firstname.lastname@example.org