Jesus offers to all who follow him the promise of freedom. Freedom from the Law was one of the earlier defining realities for the church. It was also a cause of tension, as Jews and Gentiles worked out how to be the people of Jesus together. Without the definitions and controls of the Law there was freedom and there were new opportunities. Over time, the followers of Jesus began to trust in the promise of the Spirit and the reality of a new law – the law of sacrificial love. In this trust there was a shift in the understanding of freedom.
The freedom offered by Jesus was not complete permissiveness. It was freedom from sin combined with accountability and grace (John 8:31-38). Peter also writes about this tension: “As servants (or slaves) of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.” (I Peter 2:16) Freedom comes with responsibility.
Being free within the boundaries set by Jesus is liberating. We have space in which to use our gifts, and experience the grace of forgiveness and the strength of the Spirit. In this space, where we are deeply free, we become aware of all those who are not free.
Freedom is lost in many ways. Emotional and relational tension and disappointments can define people’s lives. Racism and discrimination traps people in ways that remove life-giving opportunities. Poverty and disaster reduce opportunities for human flourishing. Cultures that do not value and protect girls and women can be cruel and limit human potential. Government controls that restrict worship and create fear in people do not build trust and confidence. The impact of climate change on people limits the ability of communities to grow food and be self-reliant.
The ministry of Global Mission Partners that we share with churches in Australia and internationally challenges all these limits on freedom. It means we speak out and name the forces that bind and restrict people. Our calling is to use our freedom, and the opportunities we have, to advocate for freedom for all.
Our deepest hope is for a world where people find true and deep freedom in Jesus, and also have the opportunity to live well and to flourish without restrictions placed on them by others. When people and communities find such freedom, it is a life-changing transformation.