“Help me make the
most of freedom and of pleasure,
nothing ever lasts forever.
Everybody wants to rule the world.”
Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Tears for Fears
Freedom is a very interesting topic; it’s a feeling I get on top of a mountain, human rights are based on it, and Mel Gibson, no matter how cliché, powerfully proclaimed it in Braveheart. But what is freedom? Every person has their own theory, every government has their own policy, and for all of human history, somewhere, someone has been fighting for it. Now if we have been looking (and fighting) for this long, we must have found the answer, right? The Church says yes, the world says yes, but that doesn’t mean the two sides agree on what freedom is. The world sees freedom as a choice to better him or herself, a choice to make life as pleasurable as possible, with the most comfort and as least struggle. The Church disagrees and comes across like a bunch of prudes though, not really knowing where pleasure fits in, or if it even belongs. Well what really is freedom? And does pleasure belong?
In 1861 Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. His election as President caused unrest and seven of the southern slave states formed the Confederate States of America separating themselves from the Union (northern states) and tried to break away from the United States. The main issue that caused the war was black slavery. In his inauguration President Lincoln said he would ban slavery all across the United States. The Confederacy saw owning slaves as a constitutional right, and change of law would be an infringement of these rights. The war lasted until 1865 when the Confederates surrendered.
Ten years prior to the war the Underground Railroad was full force, saving 100,000 African Americans from slavery by one estimate. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses ending in Canada that African American slaves used in the 1800s to get to freedom. The slaves had good reason to be running as they didn’t only live a life of bondage, but they lived in fear of things like beatings, rape, and even murder. After the resolution of the Civil War many refugees living in Canada returned to the Southern States in hopes to reconnect with family, friends, and the land they had lived in.
Sometimes I think that as humans we try to find our own underground railway of sorts. The slaves weren’t able to find freedom in the immediate, so they had to run away from the problems that faced them. Let’s face it, life has problems; beatings, rape, and murder didn’t disappear at the end of this war. So what is the first reaction as soon as we are presented with problems? Run. We run away, and look for refuge. We shop, we eat, we gossip, we drink, we smoke, we have sex, we run. It’s such a human response and outside the kingdom of God it makes so much sense to run. But for those in the kingdom on the other hand, running should not be an option let alone a thought. If we as born again Christians continue to live in the refuge of sin we miss out on the reality and blessing that we are already living under freedom. After the abolition of slavery in America why would African Americans flee the country? They no longer had to run around looking for freedom, they were already free. That doesn’t mean life got easy, they were still living amongst discrimination. But freedom was no longer something to be sought after, freedom became their state of being, they now sought to live through daily challenges as free people. It’s the very same for every man and woman who has been saved. There is no need to run in the hopes of finding freedom. Freedom is now a state of being amongst any situation. Freedom is living under the grace of God, and grace is a blessing to live in.
Edit: Just to clear this up, I am in no way speaking against the Underground Railroad movement. Just as I am not speaking against a non-believer living by the world, because they do not know better. I am just using the analogy of African American slavery to show that once they had freedom they returned home and stopped running. Once a non-believer is saved they no longer have to run.
Because life is so short, we all ask the question “How can I make the most of freedom and pleasure?” The world seems to think that the Church is pointless. To them it means a life bound by rules without any pleasure, and without any freedom. So we freak out, and try to make church less boring with cooler bands, hip coffee shops, or maybe we avoid certain topics that ruffle feathers. But the reason that they see it as pointless is because the Church is so full of Christians who are not living free of their sin under the grace of God. We say God is the answer to all problems, but we have the same divorce rate as everyone else. We say God casts out all fear but when the bad memories from childhood come up, we go to the pub for freedom, just like everyone else. We say God has a peace that surpasses all understanding, but life gets stressful and we turn to pornography freedom, just like everyone else in the statistic. We forget the words in 2 Corinthians “we are the ambassadors for Christ”. We are the ambassadors, not our church services.
Grace is a gift. If I hand to you a gift, and you put it under the stairs, never even bothering to open the gift, you wont be living in the blessing of that gift. Sure it is in your possession and maybe you got warm feelings the moment you received the gift (salvation), but it never went past that. Years go by and you don’t even remember where the gift is, you start to doubt if you actually received the gift, and I am sitting here shaking my head thinking “You would have loved it, that would have blessed you for years, made you so much more joyful.” Grace and freedom are two sides of the same coin, don’t be tricked into thinking that you can misuse grace. The only way that grace could be misused is if our sinful desires were actually better than what God has to offer in his plans. If living under grace is better, then to periodically step out of grace when we want to live by the flesh we are only missing out on true pleasure and misusing our self. Far too many Christians, including myself, are scared to step out in faith and in freedom for fear that God’s way might not be the best or most enjoyable way. But as John Piper said, “God is most glorified, when we are most satisfied in Him.” Can we make the most of freedom and pleasure? Simply put, yes. Under the grace of God you can experience freedom like never before, and accompanied with that is a pleasure that will have no match.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)