Why We Aren't Free
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:38
One of my favourite worship songs alludes to this very verse, but why is it that even as Christians, we don't always feel free? Recently, California has put a temporary ban on worshiping in a congregation setting to help minimize the spread of COVID-19, as previously advised by the WHO. I don’t know the actual consensus, as I am not a part of a statewide pastoral group, but there are some interviewed pastors who felt that this ban is a show of persecution and censorship rather than a safety measure to fight against the second wave of COVID-19.
Worship is something I love, especially in a large congregation, hearing the mingling voices of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ blessing God’s name. I'm so disheartened by the responses that a lot of interviewed pastors and priests have given - that their churches will not allow this censorship and will continue on in singing praise to God. Ultimately, this wasn’t a ban to persecute Christians - this is a safety measure to protect Christians. Worshiping and praise are not banned - you are allowed to sing your heart out and shout your praise from out your window if you’d like. I am saddened that rather than preaching thankfulness for being able to congregate despite current events, and that the government is doing their best to help ensure safety measures are in place for citizens, what is being spread is a fear of religious persecution, when this temporary ban is clearly stated for health provisions of the nation. I'm sad for the elderly and the young and the physically weak within those congregations who may still desire to have in-person fellowship and be a part of corporate church - because their health is being compromised for politics. I’m disappointed that rather than rejoicing in the freedom we have to praise God, a lot of people are focusing on the inconveniences we have due to current circumstances. Especially as the world seems to be in a constant state of chaos, we as Christians must even moreso be anchoured in Christ and show that we trust in God's provision and sovereignty, and let others see that through the hope we have and what we're willing to surrender for one another.
While this temporary "loss of freedom" plague the churches here in California, true persecution against the Church is happening throughout the world - Chinese missionaries have been ripped from their homes of years, and Hong Kong faces possible banning of Christianity (among the abolishing of other rights), religious-political unrest is still rampant throughout the Middle East, and religious battles continue on in Chad, Sudan, and many more African nations. People are literally dying for their faith and having to go into hiding to practice, and still choosing to live declaring Christ. As Americans, our freedom of religion has bound us to a misunderstanding of what freedom in Christ means. Freedom is not based on our freedom to preach, praise, and gather. Our freedom is freedom from sin - that though as man we are to sin, we have hope in Christ that we are able to repent and rekindle our relationship with God.
Ultimately, the Gospel message is this: that God loved us so much, He gave His One and Only Son - Jesus Christ - to die on the cross and save us from Hell. By living the perfect life free from sin, He became the ultimate sacrifice that covers all of our sins. Because of this, we are free to have a relationship with God, though we are imperfect. Knowing we have Heaven to look onwards to is what gives us the freedom to hope even in dire situations of persecution, warfare, imprisonment, and even death. Like everything else we believe in, our freedom isn't for us to fight for on earth, but to help others accept this freedom to look into eternity.