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  • Writer's pictureElijah Blalock

Sacrifice Your Freedom

I love living in the United States. I am first and foremost a citizen of heaven, and I reject the worship of earthly kingdoms, but I am glad that my earthly citizenship is here. I am proud to be an American and I want to see her prosper. I'm well aware of her shortcomings and historic injustices, but I remain proud of her history. I believe in her ideals of liberty and justice for all and that we all have certain God-given rights. While America has often fallen short of her ideals, men and women of all backgrounds have often struggled towards them. I am filled with gratitude when I hear the stories of Washington's army crossing the Delaware, Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom, Lincoln speaking at Gettysburg, men storming the beaches of Normandy, and Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "I have a dream." All of these Americans were imperfect people to be sure, but are regarded as heroes now because they contributed to the freedom and prosperity that we enjoy at great cost to themselves.

If you asked any lover of this country what America stands for, they would probably say "freedom," or "liberty." It is the basic idea that people should be free to live, speak, and worship as they wish without fear of harm from their government or their fellow citizens. But what is the purpose of freedom? Freedom to what end?

The Bible speaks of freedom, but we must recognize that the Bible was written in a much different context and speaks to all believers, including ones that do not live in what we would consider to be free countries. It speaks of the freedom that all believers have in Christ: "For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1). However, it clearly does not define freedom as doing whatever you please at any given moment. "For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love." (Gal. 5:13). If we want a biblical example of unbridled freedom, where everyone is free to do as they wish, we need not look further than the book of Judges, where "everyone did what was right in his own eyes." The result of that freedom was utter disaster that, paradoxically, often left the people of God in bondage.

What to make of freedom then? Many things can be true at once. It is true on the one hand that the government should give people the freedom to do as they see fit in many regards. For example, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of peaceful assembly are all good things, and the government should protect those rights, even if people say and believe wrong things. On the other hand, it is also true that unbridled freedom leads to bondage. Societies with no sense of right and wrong decay, and the same is true for us in our personal lives. You are presented with an overwhelming number of choices in life, and you must decide how you will live. A man may be free to spend every penny that he makes on liquor and lottery tickets, but I doubt that any of us would consider the impoverished alcoholic a role model of freedom. Such a person is only free in a legal sense. He is in reality enslaved to his addictions. To quote Bob Dylan, "you gotta serve somebody." It may not be the right of the government to choose for you, but you will choose.

We live in a society that is obsessed with a freedom that cannot deliver what it promises. We are taught that the ideal life is to do what we please when we please. This, however, enslaves us to our appetites and isolates us from each other. No one can actually live this way and have any semblance of a good life. Any meaningful relationship or higher purpose in life requires that we sacrifice our freedom in its pursuit. A married man is less free than a bachelor. He is not free to pursue other women. His possessions are no longer his only, but also hers, and, if he wants to have a happy marriage, so is his time. He is not free to stay out late or travel whenever he wishes. He must miss certain things to be present with his wife. His "yes" to her means a "no" to many other opportunities. He has sacrificed a measure of his freedom.

I use the word "sacrifice" carefully. I do not mean surrender. Surrender implies loss. Sacrifice necessarily means that something is lost or given up, but that it is given up for a purpose. You make sacrifices in pursuit of a higher goal. A man may sacrifice a measure of his freedom in the pursuit of something more valuable than his ability to stay out late every night. He gives up his freedom, but he gains love. What he sacrifices is not as valuable as his wife.

We struggle with commitment sometimes. We'd rather not commit to something until we know that nothing better will come along. This is sometimes called "FOMO" or "fear of missing out." Ironically, in trying to keep our options open, we wind up missing out on all of them! We must say "no" to some things if we are ever to say "yes" to anything. If we are unwilling to sacrifice our freedom to anything, we wind up living meaningless lives. We are free to seek out whatever brings us pleasure at the moment, but there is nothing else to us besides the present moment. There is no future, no trajectory, and no purpose to our lives. We serve nothing higher than ourselves.

2 Timothy 2:3-4 tells us to be good soldiers of Christ. A good soldier necessarily sacrifices his freedom. He is not free to come and go as he pleases or to decide for himself. He is there to take orders, and possibly to give his life serving his commanding officer. We may ask why anyone would want to live such a life! But plenty of people become soldiers because they find meaning in serving a cause greater than themselves, even at great risk to their own wellbeing. Coming to Christ means sacrificing our freedom. We are being called to make sacrifices, perhaps even risky ones, to serve someone greater than ourselves. By doing so, we find true biblical freedom. It is not freedom from something, be it authority or rules, but freedom to something. It is the freedom to be who we were made to be—to love and be loved by God. This is why Jesus said, "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it." (Matthew 16:25).

We struggle to lead good lives for Christ because we are not willing to make sacrifices. How many "Christians" consider it too burdensome to set an alarm and show up for church on Sunday morning? The numbers were not good pre-pandemic, and they are surely not better now. Saying "yes" to church is a sacrifice. It means saying "no" to an extra hour of sleep on your day off, or perhaps to a trip to the lake. But these are small things. Aren't the sacrifices to be a good spouse or father or mother far greater? Isn't it much more difficult to be a good neighbor and serve your community? How can serve Christ in any way if we are not willing to make the smallest of sacrifices?

Your freedom is like money. Saving money is a good thing, but ultimately, money is made to be spent. You save it so that you will have it to spend. It would be rather foolish to save up a million dollars while living homeless and hungry on the streets. It would be better to spend the money you have on food and a home. In the same way, freedom is meant to be spent. Every choice and every commitment you make costs you the freedom to do other things. And so, spend it wisely. Sacrifice your freedom for something greater than you. As Romans 12:1 says, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship." Christ is not calling you to take the first step. He has already done that. Whatever sacrifices we may make for him we do in light of the mercies he has already shown us. In fact, the point of the passage is that, in light of what Christ has done for us, it is only reasonable for us to live for him. And so, make the sacrifices. Devote yourself to a church. Be a good spouse. Raise your kids well. Serve your community. Advocate for the helpless. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

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