For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.1 Peter 2:15-16
In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace gave his ragtag group of Scotsmen a pep talk from atop his horse, urging them on to fight a much larger and more skilled English army. The most famous line of the movie is “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!” And so a bunch of men wearing plaid skirts stood their ground against the superior force and fought the English with ferocity. Then most of the Scots died, and eventually William Wallace was captured, tortured, and beheaded. Now that I think about it, it wasn’t really a pep talk. It was a “convince these guys to commit a heroic suicide mission beside me” talk. In kilts. Ah, freedom.
Ever since the beginnings of civilization when slavery was a universal fact of life, freedom has been a cherished part of our best moral fiber and something to be thankful for. Ancient Scripture, in the book of Exodus, said that Hebrew slaves must be freed by their seventh year of captivity (Exod. 21:2), and in the books of Leviticus and Ezekiel, the Scriptures tell of the Year of Jubilee: every fiftieth year all slaves would be freed and property returned to its owners. So while your life surely shines in comparison to a life of brutal servitude, when things don’t go according to plan it can feel like your Year of Jubilee of thankfulness will never come. It’s easy to forget what a blessing freedom is and lack gratitude in our lives.
There are four main thieves that steal our thankfulness for our freedom. The first is victimhood. You see, the most helpful thing in life is not the ability to get your way; that’s fairy tale freedom. What is truly freeing is to realize that freedom is your power to act, speak, and think without restraint. When we play the victim, we are giving up our control over the situation, essentially surrendering our freedom. Another freedom thief that threatens to keep you under the thumb of control and lost in the abyss of stagnation is laziness. Freedom can be stopped in its tracks by your choice to do absolutely nothing about it.
Freedom also does not mean isolation. Nothing good grows from an intentional decay into being totally and literally alone. You may feel a sense of freedom in shutting yourself off from the world. Locking yourself in your room and playing Xbox or writing in your journal all day might sound like getting away from it all, but when your self becomes your only interaction, then your freedom has been replaced by the prison cell of isolation. You were made for community, so if you want to live how you were intended to live, then your freedom has to include others. Even if being with others is hard or uncomfortable, it is still a part of being unencumbered with the chains of aloneness. Listen, if you were to meet me at a party, you’d never know that my semi-secret passion is to just be left alone. But when I get my wish, I rarely impact others in a positive way and am never impacted in ways that can come only from others. That’s the value of living in community, of being part of something bigger than yourself.
Lastly, freedom isn’t always as effortless or as safe as we’d like it to be. Sometimes freedom is dangerous. It’s unknown at best and scary at worst. If fear overcomes you when you think about change, then freedom will make your stomach churn. But letting fear win is becoming a slave to that fear. When you obey something like your fear of danger or the unknown, you give fear authority over your life, and your freedom is gone. But you weren’t meant to live in fear, serving it and obeying its every command. You were meant to live in freedom—freedom from all the little gods who try to convince you that the big God who created you can’t be trusted with your life. If he can’t be trusted, then you should fear, but if he is big enough to protect you and to guide you, then all that fear is useless and should be discarded as such. Don’t let fear dictate your life, but trust God, live in the freedom of that trust, and be thankful that your freedom was bought with a price by Jesus.
Questions to ponder
What is the first freedom you can remember experiencing or are looking forward to when you get it?
What freedoms do you most take for granted where you lack thankfulness?
Between the freedom thieves of victimhood, laziness, isolation, and fear, which are you most prone to let creep in and erode your thankfulness in regards to the freedom God has given you?