Today, in the United States, it’s Independence Day. It’s the day we celebrate the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of our country becoming separate from England. Independence Day always leaves me considering more than history though. I often end up thinking about what freedom really means and comparing my religious views on freedom to how freedom is described around me.
That’s really what I want to focus on today – what freedom means in a religious sense and how we can stand for it in our own lives. Freedom always has a cost. It’s difficult to attain and equally challenging to maintain. Frankly, it can’t be maintained without people who will work to maintain it every day, and that holds true both religiously and otherwise.
God and Freedom
Our God is a great advocate of freedom. He considers it essential. His plan for our salvation centered around two things: agency, which is the freedom to choose to live how we see fit, and a savior, who would use His agency to liberate us from the destruction of choosing disobedience. Both central parts of this plan are freedom-focused.
Because of this, we have freedom in our mortal lives. God does not force us to follow Him, and He never will. God leads with love and compassion; to force us into obedience would be the opposite of love because force is never love.
God loves us, and He cares about our progression. He gives us freedom because it’s a way to show us love, but agency also allows us to progress and learn, and because God wants us to become better, He needs to allow us our agency.
The natural result of us having agency, however, is that all of us, at some point, will choose disobedience over obedience to God. We all sin. We all choose to turn away from God at times. And if we continued in these choices, we would actually lose our agency to Satan, who prefers force and bondage to love and agency. The more we turn from God, the more we then turn to Satan. And Satan will do all he can to take away freedom.
And this is why God’s plan also included a savior, our Savior Jesus Christ, to counter Satan and his attempts at bondage. God wasn’t going to take away our ability to choose and progress, but He didn’t want to lose us to Satan as a result. So Christ chose to accept the calling offered to Him to save us from sin and death, so we could be freed from our bondage to Satan as well.
At every turn, our God supports freedom. He doesn’t try and take it away.
Commandments and Freedom
Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to free us, so it makes sense that He would be the one to set the terms of our salvation. All He asks us to do is keep the commandments of God and follow Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit.
We don’t get to choose what those terms are because it’s like a contract offered to us. We can have salvation if we agree to certain terms. We don’t make the contract, but we can sign it. Our agency comes into play, not with the terms of the contract, but in whether or not we will accept the terms of the contract or not. We don’t have to. We don’t have to do what Christ asks us to do. But if we want salvation, then this contract is the only way to receive it.
Some people look at commandments and think that they are restrictions hindering their freedom. But freedom can’t be maintained without boundaries. We call the United States a free country, yet it still has laws. Why? Because laws protect freedom. They help people use their personal freedom in ways that won’t harm the freedom of others. Of course, this is the ideal more than the reality, but that’s why there are also consequences for breaking the law. The consequences help reinforce the need for the law.
Commandments are essentially the laws of heaven. They protect the freedom God offers us, and, when followed, they protect us from each other. If all people followed the commandments of God, no one would infringe on the freedom of others.
But the commandments have another role in supporting freedom as well. If you take a good look at the commandments of God, you’ll see that each one either teaches us how to follow God or directs us in how to avoid the sin and bondage of Satan. The commandments help us to protect and maintain freedom under God’s direction, and living by the commandments helps us become more like God – an advocate for love and freedom, in their truest senses.
“Let Us Live to Make Men Free”
In “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” one of the verses says, “As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free.” Christ chose to sacrifice Himself for us so we could choose to become holy as He is. That was a major part of Christ’s mission, and He continues in that mission by succoring us and helping us through our lives each day.
The second part of the line is interesting though, “let us live to make men free.” Christ advocated freedom by sacrificing Himself for us. But we can advocate freedom as we live our lives.
Part of living as an advocate of freedom is to follow the commandments of God. This also includes, of course, living the laws of the land. Obedience to law, particularly divine law, will protect and maintain freedom for you and everyone around you.
But another part of advocating freedom is finding ways to attain freedom in places where it is lacking. Each of us has to do this as we see fit, and we won’t all pursue the same courses of action. A big way we can do this, though, is by working to diminish the power of Satan in the world. Some people do this by fighting human trafficking or pornography. Others do so by reaching out to those in need. Some teach the gospel while others show love in small ways everywhere they go. Many people do various combinations of these and other things.
So consider, this week, what freedom means to you. What can you do to advocate freedom in your life, your home, your country? How can you advocate for the kingdom of God and eternal freedom through Christ?
As you advocate freedom, it’s likely you will face challenges and obstacles. As I said at the beginning of this post, freedom has a cost. You might have to sacrifice to support freedom, whether it’s time, comfort, or something much larger, but the cost will be worth maintaining freedom. Remember, our Father has sacrificed for freedom. Christ has sacrificed for freedom. Our sacrifices might be different from Theirs, but freedom often demands sacrifice of some sort. We have to choose if we are willing to make those sacrifices or not. And as we do choose to support freedom, freedom will not fail.