Liberty vs. Freedom

Today I was driving from my early morning meeting, pondering some great discussion (I’ll let you in on that some time later). As I was driving, I was listening to Mars Hill Audio Journal. The person being interview was talking about early American symbols for freedom and the difference linguistically between freedom and liberty. Liberty comes from the Latin word libertas, meaning autonomy (as opposed to slavery). Freedom is more interesting. It is derived from an Indo-European word pris. It shares its linguistic root with our English word friend. What it interesting, is that this word freedom does not come from a root meaning autonomy, but from one that speaks of being bound to someone, but not in the bonds of slavery, but the bonds of love and friendship.

The connection I was making in my mind as I listened was that the Christian understanding of freedom is not autonomy, it is freedom within the bonds of love – love for others and love for Christ. Hence Paul can speak of being set free to be slaves of God (Galatians 5:1, 13; 1 Peter 2:16). Libertarian freedom (absolute autonomy of self) ends up destroying Christian freedom. We were not created and redeemed to be autonomous, but to be in a loving relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t mean to suggest that liberty isn’t a Christian concept. It is, and is the reason we believe we will all be held personally and individually responsible for our actions. However, I think we have completely lost the true meaning of freedom in our quest to throw off all bonds of morality. Let’s recapture the idea that we have been set free for righteousness, because we are in a friendship with God.