Freedom

I’ve been pondering the topic of freedom for some time now and, just before I sat down to write this, Kinship Radio was playing “Freedom” by Jesus Culture. The song is based on 2 Corinthians 3:17

 

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NLT)

 

Oddly, we as a nation based on freedom don’t talk about freedom much anymore. We seem to have forgotten the pioneering spirit that longed for freedom and exchanged it for promises of safety, security, and comfort. (“The Pioneer’s Way” by Kinship Radio Executive Director Jennifer Hayden Epperson is a worthy read.) 

 

But I think the concept of freedom is not only central to the ideology of this nation, but a core foundational aspect–perhaps the foundational aspect– of our relationship with God.

 

I have also lately come to the theological conclusion that an enormous chunk of Christianity can be illustrated, illuminated, and explained with Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32)

 

That includes the topic of Christian freedom.

 

When the younger son asks his father for his share of the inheritance, he is essentially asking the father for permission to live his life as if the father were dead. An inheritance is not granted while the father still lives, yet the son asks for unlimited freedom. And that is what he gets. He leaves his father and goes off to live his life as if his father no longer exists. His father, although almost certainly knowing that the younger son will come to no good end, grants that son the freedom to go off and live as he pleases. The father waits and yearns for his son’s return, but nowhere in the parable does Jesus say that the son sent word or communicated with his father in any way while he was gone. For all the father knows, the son is as good as dead.

 

But, when the son “came to his senses” (verse 17) he comes up with a plan to return to his father and beg to be treated like one of his hired servants. The son is now willing to give up the freedom his father granted him in exchange for food, lodging, and a wage.

 

The father, rejoicing at the son’s return, not only restores the son’s freedom but his status as a member of the family as well.

 

The older brother, incensed by his father’s outpouring of mercy and grace, fumes at the father’s generosity and refuses to participate in the BBQ party with its rich food, music and dancing. 

 

The younger brother left seeking freedom, only to realize he had been free all along. The older brother, apparently jealous that he didn’t get to waste a huge chunk of pop’s money he didn’t get to waste a huge chunk of pop’s money on his own BBQ, is stomping, tooth-grinding mad at old Dad’s generosity because he’s always been the good kid and, well, he never got a party.

 

And…

 

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.” (NLT)

 

The older brother has always been free. This is the same father who granted the younger brother his inheritance (which would have been a third of all the father’s assets) simply because he asked. From what I can tell after thinking this over carefully, the older brother probably didn’t get his party and feast with his friends because he didn’t ask! Throughout the parable, pops was clearly shown to be more than generous with the party supplies. (No, we are not going down the Prosperity Gospel bunny trail from here.)

 

And so it is with our freedom. What kind of God would create people that He didn’t intend to be free? We long for freedom, we yearn to make our own choices –even if they are bad choices. It is an essential element of what it is to be human. God is not a puppet-master or a dictator or a tyrant. (This does not mean He cannot be very, very persuasive. Ask a guy called “Jonah.”)

 

When I wrote above that a huge chunk of Christian theology can be illustrated, illuminated, and explained with the Parable of the Prodigal Son, one aspect that the parable does not cover is justice. The younger brother did waste a third of dad’s assets, and the father forgives that debt without even mentioning it. But, what about that? Part of the older brother’s complaint is legitimate. There is a debt that is not repaid in the parable.  The younger brother, even though accepted back into the family, would probably live the remainder of his life trying to repay the debt of the money he wasted.

 

But the cross changes all that. Jesus told the Parable of Prodigal Son prior to the cross. The cross balances the scales of justice because Jesus pays the debt we could never repay. Nothing is owed. It is all paid, forever and ever and for all who will simply accept the gift of salvation by believing in Him.

 

The cross buys our freedom, cancels our debt, and sets us truly free.

 

The empty tomb is our proof that the freedom He bought for us is eternal. The Holy Spirit present in us is our seal and guarantee that we are heirs to that eternal freedom.

 

Today’s Praise

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you  free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1&2 (NIV)

 

 

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