Now and Then

by Bob James

This is a week that is important for people who believe in freedom. Many people have looked at the return of Hong Kong to Red China and decried the loss of freedom. This is also the week of Canada Day (July 1) and what freedom loving person of any nation doesn't know the meaning of the Fourth of July? So what does it really mean to be free? Are you free?

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood; fear God; honor the king. I Peter 2:15-17 (NASB)

Freedom often depends on your perception. For instance, I have lamented the loss of Hong Kong from freedom to Communism. Hearing some of the Chinese speak during various interviews made me stop and think. Many of them talked about the joy of Hong Kong becoming a part of China once again, and the end of British rule. Many expressed worry about Communist rule, but still expressed their joy over the change.

While I believe that Chinese living in Hong Kong will fare worse under Communist rule than under British rule, they will ultimately be able to choose their political destiny. It may be that the economic freedom available in Hong Kong will open doors for the rest of China that could mean the end of Communist rule.

If Communist rule ends in China, will the Chinese people be free? Politically? Yes. Economically? Yes. But will they be truly free? The liberating power in Christianity is that no matter what our political or economic status, true freedom comes from knowing and serving Jesus Christ. Peter described it as being a bondslave. Ironic, isn't it? True freedom comes from voluntarily entering a slave/master relationship with God.

As paradoxical as that may sound, it is true in all of life. Politically, we are slaves to the prevailing political system! Though I enjoy the democracy we have in America, I could not become King, or even a military dictator. I could, however, legally become President. (Were I to run for public office under the present system, I probably could not be elected dog catcher, but that's beside the point.) I am trapped in this political system.

The people in Hong Kong will always be under some form of government that limits their actions, just as all people will always be. Spiritually, we must choose between following God, and not following God. Following God will cause us to put limits on our life, but those limitations are the basis of order in society. This order in society allows the freedoms we so richly desire.

On the other hand, many choose not to follow God. Many choose to do their own thing. They do what they want to do without concern for others, falsely believing that their actions have no impact on others. They often end up with bad habits to which they are truly enslaved. This license has ended up in slavery.

Freedom is not the license to do as we please. Too often that lifestyle turns into one with messy self-gratification that never satisfies. Freedom is the power to do as we know we ought, not having the shackles of other worries to prevent us from doing right.

Prayer of commitment: I know, Heavenly Father, that true freedom comes from You. I come to you now to ask You to lead me in all areas of my life that I may be truly free. Help me to share that freedom with others. I pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

(NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible (c) 1975 by The Lockman Foundation.)

(c) 1997 by Bob James. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to distribute this article to others without charge as long as this notice is attached. This article may not be distributed commercially either individually or as part of any anthology without the express written consent of the author.


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