Freedom…that’s what’s at the heart of the American dream. As Americans, we’re granted the opportunity to pursue our desires. We have the liberty to live where we want to live, to work where we choose, to drive the kind of car we want, and to buy the latest fashions and walk around in style. Compared to many countries around the world, Americans have it pretty easy.
In fact, society actually compels us to pursue our freedoms. It’s practically un-American if we don’t demand our freedom and our rights to do as we please and live how we want (so long as we’re within the law, of course).
However, is the American dream really God’s will? Does He support the great push for the individual freedoms that we’re guaranteed under our constitution? These are difficult questions to answer for sure.
The essence of the American dream is rooted more in the rights of the individual than it is for the good of the whole. We are taught from a young age that it is our right in this country to be able to live as we so choose. It’s all about liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
However, you find a different kind of freedom mentioned in the Bible. We’re told that by becoming Christians, we’re then free from sin. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Sin is what enslaves us, and by accepting Christ into our lives, we break free from the shackles of sin and death.
This is a far different idea of freedom than what the average American spends their days dreaming about. While there is nothing inherently wrong with aspiring to live one’s life as you want, God tells us that true freedom is only found in Jesus, and that His freedom will make us alive again.
In thinking about the Biblical idea of freedom, we have to take into consideration the idea of strengthening the church (the body of Christ) through our actions.
Rather than living solely to better ourselves and to amass as many belongings as possible during our lifetime, the Bible instructs us to love others, help others, and build up the body of Christ.
A few verses later in the same chapter of Galatians we are told, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
So, the freedom that we’ve gained through Christ is to be used to help our fellow man—not just for enriching our own lives.
How often do we stop to think about our lives in these terms? Do we really take into account the welfare of our neighbors and value it as highly as we value our own freedom to live as we want?
I have a hard enough time grasping the whole concept of freedom in Christ, let alone figuring out how to use it to build up my next-door neighbor. Yet, that is exactly what we’re called to do as believers in Christ.
The goal is to lift up those around us, so that we’re all better off than we would have been otherwise. When we spend all our resources on ourselves, we end up contrary to the will of God, and quite often lonely and empty in the process.
I’m talking largely to myself here, because I have been guilty of far too much self-focus for much of my life. If all I do is see how many toys I can buy, I’m not really accomplishing anything with the resources that God has entrusted to me.
Those around me, as well as myself, would be better off if I instead used my time, energy, and other resources to spread the word about the freedom found in Christ.
That is true, Jesus-style freedom.