Summary: Value your freedom as a Christian and as a citizen.
Note: This article is dedicated to Chris Sloop, who suggested its premise.
PREMISE: Our liberties as Christians and citizens must not be taken for granted.
PURPOSE OF ARTICLE: To persuade Christians to value their twofold freedom.
Two weeks ago, Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day. It was on July 4, 1776 that the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, formally establishing the independence of the thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. Since then, fireworks, parades, concerts, barbecues, and family gatherings have been typical of American celebrations commemorating this special day.
Sadly, however, there are many Americans who don’t know what, or why, they’re celebrating. If you think this is a joke, consider that, “for 14 percent of U.S. teens, the Fourth of July will mark the historic day we declared independence from France” and “15 percent of U.S. teens didn’t know the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776”1 (and all this is based on a poll taken several years ago, let alone today).
Certainly, this is a tragic decline in public knowledge of important historical information. But even more tragic is that someone who does not know their American history cannot fully understand their rights as an American citizen. The same goes for any country. How can someone appreciate the value of their freedom without understanding what went into obtaining that freedom?
And what does any of this have to do with Christianity…or apologetics?
1. As Christians, we have been given the greatest liberty, and we must not conceal it.
You don’t have to be an American (we very much appreciate our international readers) to appreciate the celebration of liberty. Yes, American freedom was bought by the sacrifice of men and women who fought bravely, but we as Christians enjoy a greater liberty obtained through a far greater sacrifice by Jesus on the cross. American freedom was bought by the blood of patriots, but our liberty as Christians was purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In Gethsemane, he anguished more than any soldier, and on Calvary, his triumph transcended every victory in human history.
Now, the message of the gospel is clear and simple to understand. It is a message of freedom and hope. But how many Christians, like the uninformed Americans described in the polls, do not fully appreciate the gravity of this message? Or if they understand it intellectually, how many of them do not live as if they understand it? Christians often say that Jesus’ death freed us, and that is true, but do we know what we were freed from? Certainly, we were freed from enduring the wrath of God and experiencing the sting of death, but do we not realize that we were also freed from the power of sin? Jesus himself said that “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34), but “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 36).
This is what Christian liberty is all about. One of the greatest theological misconceptions is that Christian liberty (described in Galatians 5) permits us to live however we choose, but nothing could be further from the truth. To live that way is to continue to live in sin, and it would be just as foolish as American citizens continuing to pay taxes to Great Britain or freed men submitting to a former cruel master. We have not been freed to sin, but from sin. We are now slaves to Christ, and yet in that slavery we are more free than we ever were.
And herein lies the great truth: freedom in Christ is equal to joy incomparable. Yet how many of us, while privately thankful for the gift of salvation, fail to tell others about that joy? How many of us, while experiencing the greatest freedom, neglect to share that freedom with others? Just as there are Americans who fail to value their freedom, there are so many followers of Christ who live their lives as if they are still in darkness and under the bondage of sin. The Declaration of Independence names the “unalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but we as Christians are already blessed with life abundant, liberty from sin, and the pursuit of a joyful and intimate relationship with our Creator.
That is why we must proclaim it from the rooftops and shout it on the streets. That is why we must tell others about the message of the gospel. We have been liberated! We are free in every sense of the word, and to conceal the source of that freedom is folly! This is why Christian apologetics exists: to make a strong intellectual case to the world for living this new life of freedom.
2. As earthly citizens, we must use our rights to proclaim and defend our Christian liberty.
But how can we proclaim our Christian liberty if we do not protect the liberties that human governments (through the Divine ordinance of God) have granted us? Even the Apostle Paul effectively used his rights as a Roman citizen, once to escape an unjust flogging (Acts 22:25-29), and another time to appeal to Caesar and preach the gospel to him (Acts 25:10-11).
Likewise, we must work to promote and protect our natural rights as citizens, for it makes it easier for us to accomplish our goal of proclaiming Christ to others. This is also a sober reminder for us to pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in other countries who suffer under highly restrictive governments that do not allow such discourse. It is also a reminder for us to never take our freedom for granted. Some good friends of mine introduced me to a quote by John Adams: “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” How true this is.
I did not write this article for Americans only. Against Doubt has dedicated readers living in many different countries and regions in the world. But I do want to draw parallels between a recent holiday and an important theme in Christianity, demonstrating that both are important in today’s changing world. Times are getting harder, and though freedom worldwide may be restricted in the coming months and years (God forbid), let us remember that we as Christians have been granted freedom that can never be lost: freedom in Christ. And because we are only pilgrims passing by in this world, let us be ever more committed to helping others receive that freedom to enjoy for all eternity.
Let freedom ring!
 Libaw, Oliver. “Poll: Many Teens Don’t Know July 4 History.” ABC News. ABC News, n.d. Web. 17 July 2016.