Is American freedom the same as gospel freedom?
Masks and vaccines. Prayer and public schools. Guns and abortion.
America has become chaotic in the midst of multiple controversies. Americans are not well-suited to have their liberties reduced, and current legislations are traumatizing many people. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the mental (and physical) resources to cope with traumatic experiences.
Recent conflicts may be amplified as a symptom of our collective trauma.
The common thread between today’s hottest issues is freedom. Does a football coach have the freedom to pray on the 50-yard line in the presence of his players and students? Does a responsible citizen have the freedom to own a firearm? Does a woman in 21st century America have the freedom to determine what happens with her body? Does a parent have the freedom to go to work or to send their child to a public school without a COVID-vaccination?
America – the land of the free.
And yet we depend on legislation to regulate those freedoms.
Inevitably, this leads to tension and conflict. Unfortunately, those tensions and conflicts become volatile, and Christians get swept into them. There are Christians on both sides of every American conflict, and the turbulence between them damages the witness of the Church.
Grace creates what we can never educate, legislate, or regulate. Gospel freedom is not the same as American freedom.
In America, as of now, you have the freedom to pray and to own a firearm. In America, as of now, you may not have the freedom to choose whether to carry a pregnancy full-term. And, in certain places, you cannot operate in total freedom if you have chosen to be unvaccinated against COVID-19.
America regulates your freedom based on its democratic ideals and systems.
It’s a deception of Christian nationalism to fuse gospel freedom into American freedom. Peter and Paul were addressing the new creations we become in Christ when they wrote letters to churches in the first century about how to live freely (Romans 6.6-14; Galatians 5.13-14; 1 Peter 2.16). Christ followers in those churches were regulated by the Roman government like we are regulated by the American government.
The freedom we have in the gospel is not the freedom we have as Americans.
So, as people liberated by the gospel and re-created in Christ, what are we to do with our gospel freedom in America?
Paul says not to use gracious freedom to indulge in sin and fleshliness, but instead to use it to serve one another in love. Peter says not to use it as a cover-up for evil, but instead to allow it to motivate our service to all mankind.
The gospel frees us to love and serve others.
The gospel frees us to love and serve those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice. The gospel frees us to love and serve those who are pro-guns and those who are anti-guns. The gospel frees us to love and serve those who are pro-masks/vaccinations and those who are against masks and vaccinations.
The gospel does not legislate and regulate, the gospel creates. The fruit of the gospel is love and service.
America requires regulation to maintain order. Laws must exist to enable democracy. Democracy, by its nature and design, will continue to create tensions and conflicts among our populace.
What if Christians became peacemakers within these turbulent scenarios rather than taking sides against one another? What if we recognized our gospel freedoms superseded our American freedoms and bound us to a higher order of love and service?
If we’ve been made free by Christ, let us never succumb to the belief that America is our highest ideal. Let us love and serve all people as Christ followers (who happen to live in America).