When people define freedom, they define it in different terms – and rightly so, because freedom is really – at the end of the day – being uninhibited by one thing or the other, and those things could range from serious things to mundane regular things in everyday living.
I remember when I was a kid, freedom meant that I could do what I want and not have my parents tell me what to do. At 9 or 10 years of age, I wanted to stay out playing with my friends for as long as I wanted without hearing my mom’s piercing voice screaming out my name from a distance – calling me home to shower - while I was running back on forth on a dusty soccer pitch. Freedom was me being able to take my time and play around on my way from the local grocery store when my mom had sent me to buy tomatoes she needed to use as she prepared dinner.
But the older I grew, freedom took even more nuanced definitions in my life. I wanted to have it my way. I wanted to be able to express myself in as many ways as I could, and including talking back to my mom. Or, when the older boys bullied us when we played soccer in our hood, I wanted to stand up to them because an even stronger sense of freedom was growing. I remember there was a dude in our hood whom everybody was scared of because he presented himself as a vicious fighter. But one day I stood up to him and the result was some mutual respect between us, and I also felt free to be myself.
See, I could go on and on but the truth of the matter is that human beings live their lives in search of some form of freedom. History is littered with this as a matter of fact. From the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the scramble for Africa which saw the Berlin Conference in 1885 leading to the colonization of Africa – human beings have been crying, fighting and pleading to be free, and some have enslaved and colonized others in order that they can be “free” to actualize their personhood. A great irony of history!
We see it even in biblical times when the Israelites in Egypt want freedom to be themselves and go back to their Land of Promise. And some fights for freedom continue even today, especially in a place like Africa where a lot of damage was done on a people and their culture, with devastating effects. Africa continues this fight for freedom even years after white colonization ended – freedom from dictatorial, corrupt, selfish and irresponsible black political leaders.
But one thing can be true: freedom can never be free.
And I want to share some thoughts on y(our) own freedom as an individual, and what it will cost you to get it.
I would want to argue that with whatever place in life you are in right now, you probably have things that are holding you back and that you need to be freed from. You are a slave to one thing or another.
If you are not a Christian, your greatest enslavement is from the power of sin. See, sin is a slave-master – it uses you. People who are enslaved to sin typically justify their enslavement by pretending they are doing what "they want", yet when you ask if they can stop doing what they are doing, you soon find out that something else controls them.
They have sex with whoever is available because their sexual urges are their masters.
They drink insurmountable amounts of alcohol, and sniff on substances that run their lives.
They work everyday of their lives and strive to be at the top of the ladder even at the expense of their wives and kids because money is their master.
They are dating, or are married, and live their loves solely to "appease" their partner or spouse to the point of idolatry because relationships and people are their idols/gods.
More importantly, all their life is expended in pursuit of a pleasure and a high that they will never fully realize. They chase the wind. They long for something which they cannot find within themselves, and within others, or within things.
I have met many people like this. In seeking to be free, they became slaves to themselves. And they will be the first to admit that they are horrible masters.
Freedom for human beings will have to come primarily with them stepping down from the throne of their lives because contrary to popular belief, we are not the Masters of our lives and destiny. We belong to Someone greater.
The idea of freedom is one that I study and laugh a lot at because of some of the inherent hypocrisy in some ideas within both liberal and conservative social and political circles world over.
The one who denounces the Biblical teachings about sexuality, becomes a slave to his own fleshly passions. The women who propagate radical feminism and seek "freedom" from what they call is patriarchy from the Bible became slaves to their own liberal ideology of gender which is filled with intellectual inconsistencies. The college students I meet who do not believe the Bible is the inerrant believe that something else is inerrant and they become slaves to their new found "source of truth" and live lives that new "source of truth".
On the other hand, the one who peddles with your sort-of-conservative ideology of the world becomes a slave of their own self-righteousness.
They are seeing what others are "doing wrong" and they live their lives to correct them and they become slaves to "being right".
There are those with solid, orthodox beliefs and great theology from the Bible but they live for that theology and not for whom the theology should rightly lead them to. They are slaves to the intellectual learning of knowledge about God and they are slaves to that pursuit as characterized by their lack of humility and love to those who they deem "ignorant".
I could go on and on about the amount of slavery and entrapment that people are wrestling with, but ultimately, I hope you can see the picture I am painting here of how much we are enslaved.
WE CAN BE FREE
From what Paul posits in His letters, it seems we can be free, but it is costly.
SLAVES TO SIN
This will be hard to explain if we do not understand what sin really is. Sin, at its core, is any attitude, thought, deed and word that goes against the purposes of God - and this is as broad as it goes. Hence, when mankind try to even go one degree away from God's ways they have equally gone completely against all his ways (James 2:10) and are on the path of danger and death (Romans 6:23). Sin is rebellion against God. From the Scriptures it is clear that our greatest enemies - who are the chief operation officers in our rebellion against God - are the devil, the world and our flesh. Only Jesus, is the one who can set people free. In a very practical way, only Jesus breaks the chains of sin and frees mankind from their slavery to sin.
The scenarios that I painted above all have to do with people being influenced by one or the other of the three above. With the devil, for example, it should not surprise us that some people are slaves to demonic oppression and are tormented by various evil forces in the spiritual realm. And we do have people maybe we have met that fit right into this category and are oppressed by evil powers. We see how Satan tempts our Lord Jesus, and we can expect him to do the same to us through his networks of demons. And his desire is clear: so that we can sin against God. Someone reading this is a slave to this.
The world piles pressure on us by painting a narrative of life that is very contradictory of God's ways, and the temptations to conform are real and when we do, we sin against our Creator. I mean, look at he pressure of our day to change clearly laid out biblical ethics by people from within the "Church", and people outside. Infact, today, people who have a propensity to go with the flow of the world and heralded as "cool" and "not bigoted" or "nor uptight". The ways of the world are not the ways of God. Someone reading this is enslaved to worldliness and the sin thereof.
Our flesh, which is maybe what we relate with the most rages with passions and desires. Fighting against lustful desires, prideful attitude and envy are realities for me everyday just like they are for you. We are naturally prone to sin. Someone reading this is enslaved to their fleshly desires and passions and will make all excuses to defend their"slavemaster".
John Piper puts it very well when he says:
Once Paul has made clear what the essence or root of sin is in Romans 1–3, he now makes clear in the following chapters the magnitude of its power in us. He speaks of sin reigning like a king in death (5:21), holding dominion like a Lord (6:14), enslaving like a slave-master (6:6, 16f, 20), to whom we have been sold (7:14), as a force that produces other sins (7:8), as a power that seizes the law and kills (7:11), as a hostile occupying tenant that dwells in us (7:17, 20), and a law that takes us captive (7:23). And this powerful presence in us, defines us until we are born again.
JESUS FREES US FROM OUR SIN
When we get saved, Jesus saves us from the power of sin (1 Corinthians 15:56–67; Romans 8:37; Galatians 5:24) and its penalty (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 8:11), but we are still in its presence till the New Creation.
What I want to drive home in all this is this: unless you have submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ - not just liking Jesus because he was a "cool, kind guy" or not just merely going to church - but submitting to Him as a king, you are still a slave who will leave mundanely in this world, and will not experience life with God in the world to come. If you are your own master, your comforts, your job, your relationships - you really are a slave.
And you cannot be "free" by reading more blogs, or trying new ways to approach life. The only way to gain freedom is submitting to Jesus and becoming a slave of righteousness - which is the best thing which can ever happen to a human being.
The most enslaved people are those who think they are "free" and "enlightened".
Who do what they want and feel like.
Who are the captain of their ship.
Who are the masters of their destinies.
Yet it's all an illusion.
You have sin that controls you and that is your real master.
Who is your substitute? Who have you transferred the guilt of your sin to? Who is dealing with your law-breaking? If Christ did not bear your penalty, then you must bear it. And like my beloved Zimbabwe, you might not have the currency to do so.