Have you ever been on a missions trip? I’ve been on a few.
On my first missions trip, I helped out in a mobile medical clinic in Guatemala. For a week, us gringos drove a couple hours to a little village and spent all day seeing patients, stopping at noon for some peanut butter sandwiches and ridiculously cheap Pepsi. It was hot and tiring and I don’t like peanut butter sandwiches, but I loved playing basketball with the kids.
I went back the next year, and this time I spent a week in a Mayan village, sleeping in a leaky tent and shooing scorpions out of the kitchen. I didn’t shower for a week and my jeans got so caked with mud they stood up on their own—wait, why am I telling you this?
My guess is you’ve heard something like this story before. It was presented on a Sunday morning, probably accompanied by a slideshow with Chris Tomlin background music. You were friends with the kid on Facebook, and she started posting things like “I left my heart in Nigeria,” or “I lost my heart to this beautiful Nigerian child.” She changed her profile picture to something that looked like this:
Now, I am not saying anything negative about missions trips. I loved all my missions experiences, so much I’ve applied to work full-time with a missions organization. When I was in Bangkok, I listened to Chris Tomlin’s “God of This City” on repeat. I left my heart in India and I’ve got the profile picture to prove it. All I’m saying is that Christianity has a tendency to become a cliche—a very muddy, child-holding cliche—and the world’s starting to notice.
Living in Freedom
You know what’s another Christian cliche? Freedom. Seriously, it’s like America or something.
Do you listen to Hillsong? That’s a dumb question, of course you listen to Hillsong. Do you have any idea how many times “freedom” is mentioned in Hillsong lyrics? Me neither, but I’m guessing a lot. And let’s not forget the fashion accessories. #SetFree on a classy black and white baseball tee? Where’s my credit card?
You know, for all this hoopla about freedom, how many people actually believe Christianity sets people free? When people go to your church, do they feel free? When they look at your life, do they see a person who’s been set free?
A Jesus Kind of Freedom
In the bible, Jesus doesn’t talk much about freedom. According to the NIV translation, Jesus only directly mentions freedom twice. Instead, Jesus spends a lot of time actually freeing people.
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’
Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
Jesus didn’t go on missions trips. He didn’t spend a week healing people and the rest of the year showing off his profile picture. Jesus didn’t spend time talking about freedom because he was too busy doing freedom. That’s why he came—to free the world from the law of sin and death. But how many of us are still living under that law?
Religion Can’t Save You
Too many Christians expect Christianity to free them. They follow a bunch of rules and raise their hands at the right times, but they’re still slaves to the same old lies. They try to be good people, try to love people, try to get into heaven, but slaves can’t get into heaven.
Christianity doesn’t free people. Christianity is just a bunch of cliches masquerading as freedom. It’s religion and religion is the law, the same law that enslaved the Israelites so many years ago. Religion is the pharisees, wrinkling their noses when Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath.
It wasn’t the Pharisees who were freeing people, it was Jesus. You can try to find freedom like the Pharisees did. You can go to church every Sunday. You can listen to “Oceans” until your ears start bleeding. You can go to Nigeria 20 times, and you know what? You’ll be just as much a slave as the people you’re trying to free.
Jesus Doesn’t Like Freedom
The few times Jesus does mention freedom, he doesn’t say much about what it looks like. I don’t think it looks like my profile picture. Apparently, it’s not written in Hillsong lyrics. I doubt it feels like a buttery-soft baseball tee.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
Jesus doesn’t like to talk about freedom. He doesn’t like to take pictures of it. He’s not that concerned with singing about it. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and it’s the that truth sets us free.
Jesus doesn’t like freedom. Jesus is freedom.