Fact: The first song that appeared in my google search results when I typed in the phrase “Beyonce lyrics to” was her song Freedom.
Disclaimer: I think my computer knows I’ve been obsessively googling/researching freedom for the past several weeks, so the results are probably not accurate whatsoever.
But, regardless, as I have been thinking and praying about what to write for this next blog, the lyrics of that song have been continuously playing in my head; so obviously I’m still taking those search results as a sign.
And yes, I know that the song speaks mainly to freedom in the context of racial injustice and oppression, but I think that the reason why this song is so popular (besides the fact that it’s Beyonce), and why so many different races and creeds identify with it is because, ultimately, the cry for freedom is at the core of who we are.
“‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-32, 34-36)
Okay, so here we have two contrasting ideas presented: being set free by truth, and being made a slave by sin. But what do those phrases mean? How do these concepts fit into the framework of a culture that tells us that freedom and being fully yourself looks like acting on every desire that you have, specifically within the context of sexuality?
To break it down, let’s go back to John and look at Jesus’ definition of “truth.” Jesus first says that the truth will set you free, then He says that the Son sets you free. In this passage, Jesus reveals to us the synonymity of truth and the Son. They are both interchangeable and co-existent. If we want to know truth, we have to know Jesus. And if we want to be set free by truth, we must look no further than the cross of Christ and the message of the gospel.
I found this verse as I was reading Jeremiah several months ago and was immediately drawn to it: “For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I have bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor.”
But, as I started thinking about this verse in relationship to the concept of freedom, it began to feel somewhat contradictory. If we are free in Christ, how are we also bound to Christ?
Another compelling passage I had come across recently is in Isaiah 61: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness to those that are bound.”
So, in one passage, the Lord is binding us to Himself, and then, in another passage, He is proclaiming release for those that are bound. Wait. WHAT. Time to consult Google…
In Jeremiah, the word “bound” means “to cling, to stick, to stay close to, to cleave, to join with.” It is the same word used in the verse Genesis 2:24, which says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” So, the type of “binding” that is happening in this context is, 1) a choice that is made by two consenting parties (between husband and wife, God and man), and 2) a choice (to stick with, stay close to, to join with) that is motivated by love.
Whoa. How beautiful.
In contrast, the “bound” that is used in Isaiah 61 means literally, “to tie, to bind, to imprison.” This type of “binding” is 1) non-consensual (think of a prisoner—he is in a jail cell regardless of whether or not he wants to be), and 2) no respecter of persons—it makes no allowances and gives no grace to those that it binds.
So, here are the options:
We can be bound and be in prison, or we can be bound and be free.
And I know that this statement could be taken as somewhat controversial, especially in the context of a society that pushes the idea that freedom in sexuality and being “truly yourself” looks like acting on every desire that you have; and truth, as it relates to the moral choices of the individual, is subjective. Freedom looks like having no boundaries.
But where exactly did we get that idea?
Freedom while driving looks like lines that keep us on the correct side of the road. Freedom for a child playing outside looks like running in the yard, but not in the street. Freedom in dancing looks like creatively making movement choices within the constraints of a specific technique. Freedom in a country looks like expressing opinions and beliefs without fear of oppression, but not breaking the law.
Freedom and boundaries are not contradictory—they actually go hand-in-hand. Freedom is all about submission to an authority—whether that authority is lines on a road, your mom, dance technique, or the government.
But most of us have a difficult relationship with authority. We would much rather be our own authority than choose to submit to someone else’s. We begin testing the waters with our mothers in infancy, stiffening our backs and screaming in our high chairs when we are offered anything that looks even remotely green, and we continue the theme by pushing the limits with God as we age, stiffening our backs and entertaining the question “Did God really say?” when faced with a moral choice.
But what we don’t realize is that in rejecting the authority of God, we are subconsciously choosing to submit ourselves to another authority—sin.
And the tyranny of sin is just as gross of an abuse of power as it sounds. With one wrong choice we invite it to enslave us, bind us with chains that we do not have the power to break, and offer us no mercy when we are begging for a way out.
But the good news is that Jesus came to proclaim the freedom of being bound by love in the prison of those who were bound by sin.
He came so that we could experience true freedom in surrendering to the objective truth of the gospel as the chosen ones who have been bound by love. The Father has graciously established the boundary lines of truth and love through the cross so that we can experience freedom from being bound by the captor of sin.
“Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Freedom, therefore, is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere of holiness for which God made us.” (see sources)
“He has sent me to proclaim…freedom for the captives.” (Isaiah 61:1) The word “freedom” in that verse means, “to move rapidly, spontaneity of outflow, pure liberty, free run, a swift bird wheeling in its flight.”
This is our invitation to freedom.
“Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.