Liberty vs Freedom

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, June 30, 2014 0 comments

by Katie Erickson
These two words, liberty and freedom, appear to be the same thing on the surface, but really there is a difference.

According to Merriam Webster, freedom can be defined as “the quality or state of being free, as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” Freedom is the power to decide your actions. Liberty can be defined as “the power to do or choose what you want to.” So basically, liberty is being able to do what you want to do, while freedom is the power to have that liberty. Clear as mud, right?

As a person living in America, we have both liberty and freedom, politically speaking. We are able to do what we want, and we can decide our own actions. But, as I wrote about last week, because of God’s natural law, every choice and action has consequences, whether good or bad.

For example, I have the freedom to decide to steal an item from a store. I have the liberty to be able to do that. But, natural law says that at some point I will reap the consequences of those actions. Pehaps I will be caught and forced to serve jail time, or at least return the stolen item. Or perhaps the consequence will be a nagging guilt for doing what I know to be wrong. Even though I have the freedom to decide to steal and the liberty to do it, I will reap the consequences of those choices.

Spiritually, things work basically the same way. Every person has the freedom to decide whether they will believe in Jesus Christ, and the freedom to decide whether they will truly follow Him with their whole life or simply be a Christian in name only. In the United States, each person has the liberty to be able to follow Jesus. However, in a country that does not approve of Christianity (such as China, or some Middle Eastern countries), the people have freedom but not liberty. A person in China is free to decide to follow Jesus, but they don’t have the liberty to do so - politically. They can still follow Jesus but it needs to be much more undercover than here in the U.S. for example.

But, who grants us either freedom or liberty? Politically speaking, it is the government that we are under - city, state, and federal. We must all abide by the laws of the land or face the consequences. Spiritually, it is only Christ who can give us freedom. Galatians 5:1 explains it like this: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

We have freedom to decide our actions because Christ has died to set us free from sin. We can decide whether to live in sin, or to live in grace. Galatians 5:4-5 says, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.” Our choice is God or sin; law or grace.

Liberty, being able to do what we want to do, comes only from Christ as well. Often referred to as the “do do” passage, Romans 7:15-17 says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” That is the Apostle Paul wrestling with liberty right there, and I think every one of us can identify with his struggle. We know what we should do, but we are not able to do it because of sin in our lives. On our own and stuck in our sin nature, we don’t have the liberty to do what God would want us to do or to be obedient to Him. But with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have liberty to receive the Spirit’s strength, and at least do better with our obedience to God’s calling.

What do freedom and liberty look like in your own life? Have you been set free from the sin that holds you captive (Hebrews 12:1)? Do you have the liberty to be obedient to what God is calling you to do?