By Alex Macias
Once while driving down the street with a family member (who shall remain nameless), a giant, decked out vehicle made a big show of whizzing past all the other cars on the road. I made a snarky comment about the ostentatiousness of the driver and vehicle, and my family member replied with, “Well that’s freedom.” At first I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. The driver was free to purchase and use as obnoxious a vehicle as he liked. As a teenager, I was confused but didn’t debate. Ok so maybe he was partially right. Who cares what kind of car this man drives? Though to myself, I thought, “But freedom? Really? That’s the freedom we’re fighting for?” While this is a bit of a silly example, this is often how American freedom is implicitly defined: freedom in our country is being able to do whatever we want, and sometimes more importantly, being able to buy whatever we want.
I think we are often guilty of having an equally shallow version of freedom in the Church as well. It usually sounds like this: because of our freedom in Christ, we don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. And the things we don’t want to do often involve helping those most in need. We’re justified by faith not works, right? So as long as we’re checking the right boxes on the theological questionnaire, we don’t actually have to care about anything or anyone! Hurray!
But freedom is a loaded subject in Scripture. Now it’s true that we have the freedom to choose God or not, but I find that the concept of freedom in Christ is much deeper, rooted in our personal and communal identities.
Jesus lived in a context that understood its identity as a freed people. In the Exodus story, God liberates the Hebrew people from slavery. Actual slavery. That fact is key for them to understand their identity. They are now God’s people. Not Pharaoh’s people. Not slaves of Egypt. The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates this liberation. It celebrates the moment when the definition of who they were was determined by God alone. This changes everything about how they see themselves and their collective mission. Their God-ordained definition included being a people committed to caring for the most vulnerable members.
So when Jesus connects himself to the Passover becoming a sacrifice that then frees humanity from bondage, and we choose to be a Christ follower, this should change everything for us. We are a freed people! Shouldn’t we, like Jesus, be committed to freeing communities from the bonds that bind them?
Our society communicates (very effectively) that our most important identity is that of a political party or of a consumer, and our mission, then, is to vote or buy correctly. But our identity in Christ supersedes all other identities – even (gasp!) being an American citizen.
This freedom in Christ is the freedom to be who God created us to be. We are God’s people. In God’s image. Recognizing God’s image in all people. How do we live into the reality that we are no longer slaves and commit to working against practices that enslave others?