the way and life of the freedom fighter?

Over the last month, I have been thinking a lot about a discussion point that I heard one evangelical Christian talk show host make when he was talking about how we have a “God-given right to freedom.” By his comment, I knew what he was saying and where he was going with it. He was saying that every single person has been made to be free and that it is our responsibility (as a country and as Christians) to fight for our God-given freedom.

In essence what he was saying is that Christians ought to be willing to support and/or participate in fighting and possibly killing, in order to preserve freedom that has been given to us by God.

Did you catch that? Fight and kill to preserve God-given freedom. It is an oxymoron.

His position had me asking all sorts of questions.

If freedom is of God, would God have us kill to maintain it? Is the freedom we talk about and fight to protect in our country the kind of freedom that God wants for us, or is it possible that freedom from God can be different than our cultural definition? And if there is another way to view freedom from God…is it possible to have this God-given freedom in the midst of tyranny and oppression?

All of these questions shake us to our core, because we, as Christians, have hardly taken the time to challenge those things that have been so culturally engrained in our collective psyche. The majority of Christian Americans can hardly imagine any other way of having freedom than fighting and killing to preserve it. We have failed in our churches to teach those who want to follow the way and life of Jesus that God-given freedom never has to be fought and killed for. The reality is that church leaders must either believe that our freedom must be fought and killed for like the masses they minister to, or they avoid saying those things that are politically incorrect so as not to offend the congregation…even if those things are central to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel accounts, Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners,” yet we know that the prisoners were no less prisoners of the Roman Empire after Jesus proclaimed this good news than they were before he preached the good news, yet he claimed that he was proclaiming freedom for the prisoners nonetheless. If the prisoners were being set free, yet were still imprisoned, one has to wonder what kind of freedom Jesus was talking about, and then further wonder if his kind of freedom required fighting and killing in order to be preserved?

Our cultural definition of freedom is the unencumbered ability to pursue my own wants, wishes, and desires. Yet, this is very different than the freedom that Jesus was proclaiming and that God calls us to in and through the way and life of Jesus Christ. For the follower of Jesus, freedom is always a sacrifice of my own wants, wishes, and desires and a life fully given over to the Spirit of God. Paul would say it this way, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This would give us the impression that the freedom that God gives us through Jesus can be experienced in each and every kind of situation, no matter how oppressive or enslaving it may be.

For the one who follows the way and life of Jesus, who has picked up his/her cross dying to the pursuits of his/her own wants, wishes, and desires, and has taken on a new life through the Spirit of God, freedom is everywhere all the time and it does not have to be defended, fought, or killed for.

Yet many Christians who believe we ought to fight and kill in order to preserve our “God-given freedom” will be quick to cite Romans 13, when Paul says:

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

While this passage has been used by many Christians out of context to make the case that since the governing authorities are the agents of God to bring punishment upon the wrongdoer…the Christian (even though it may contradict the way, life, and teachings of Jesus) ought to participate and support it…rather than tolerate and submit to it.

If we read Romans the way it was written (as a letter without chapter and verse numbers)…we would see that what immediately precedes the above excerpt is the larger context for how a Christian ought to conduct him/herself. The preceding texts says:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul is making the case to the Christians that they should not fight the tyranny of the governing authorities by retaliating and repaying evil with evil…rather calling on them to submit to the governing authorities so as to not be punished and to have a good conscience before God. Paul is directly in line with the heart and spirit of the way, life, and teachings of Jesus that calls the Christian to freedom through the Holy Spirit of God no matter the situation or circumstance.



22 thoughts on “the way and life of the freedom fighter?

  1. Wow, Brandon! You are really getting going with this, aren’t you? 🙂

    No argument here. (SHOCKER, I know). Wasn’t Paul in prison when he said he had the secret of being content in all circumstances? THAT is real freedom. Paul was secure in God’s love, yearned for heaven except for the work he knew he still had to do here on earth, trusted that God would take care of him no matter the circumstances.

    Real freedom knows that even if our our very life is taken away, we will have attained our ultimate freedom in heaven. What oppression, then, should I fear?


  2. “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” —George W. Bush

    Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004


  3. Brandon, as you travel down this road, I see a man incredibly passionate for Christ. Keep seeking the truth as you have. It is a refreshing thought that “normal” people think like I do too.
    I Love You man!!!!!


  4. “For the one who follows the way and life of Jesus, who has picked up his/her cross dying to the pursuits of his/her own wants, wishes, and desires, and has taken on a new life through the Spirit of God, freedom is everywhere all the time and it does not have to be defended, fought, or killed for.”

    I don’t have to kill anyone for my freedom because it was already bought and paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross and “so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36)


  5. “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Sir Edmund Burke….

    or…as it has been translated in the common vernacular…”All that is neccessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    You are right and wrong in your translation of the Romans 13 passage. Yes…it is talking about our personal relationships. We are not to take personal vengance. Why? Because God will do it. How does God do it? One way, not the only way, is through government. Therefore, it is not necessary….nor scriptural for me to shoot a Muslim and say…”That was for 9/11.” However, a just govt….and one that I can support as a Christian…is one that retaliates with the purpose of protecting the death of further innocents.

    It would seem to me…that your logic carried all the way through would mean…there would be no USA (since we all would still be wearing British tights)……and/or…..the Japanese and/or Hitler would still be in power.

    I do not support the premise that whatever America does is “God blessed.” However….when what America does falls into the directives of scripture…i.e., combating evil to punish the evil doer and protect the guiltless….I can participate with the full expectation of God’s blessing.


  6. I do not concur that we can even imagine let alone predict what would have happened if we had followed the way of Jesus rather that the way of war. So let’s not even go there…

    Jesus had ample opportunity to keep His people from “wearing” the clothes of Rome. He could have knocked down a Roman empire that at times was every bit as bad as Hitler’s Germany, yet he “turn the other cheek” in his personal life as well as when “attacked” by an army aided by Rome.


  7. danny…

    thanks for the comment. it is always good to hear from you and get your perspective.

    there are three things i would like us (and other people interested in following the way of jesus) to consider.

    1. if the christian believes that there are powers at work that are not physical…then the means by which the christian fights against them ought not be physical. paul would say to the christian, “for our battle is not against flesh and bone, but against the powers and principalities of evil.” yet…the christian hardly makes prayer and fasting the means through which we fight that battle. we resort to the conventional ways and means of evil to fight evil. Jacques Ellul in The Presence of the Kingdom said, “Thus, when we were confronted by Hitler- if it is true that he represented a satanic power- first of all there was a spiritual conflict to be waged. It is prayer which should be decisive, but we no longer have any confidence in the extraordinary power of prayer. Prayer is the power which exorcises demons, by the Holy Spirit, and is thus the weapon of faith.”

    2. to the extent that God uses leaders and kingdoms (either good or evil) for his purposes is well documented throughout the Bible. does this reality give the Christian authorization to join in acts that are of say “evil” leaders or kingdoms (since God is using them)? of course not. we have to understand that, even though we may not like to admit this, there are other people in other countries who view their cause as good and just, WHILE we view our cause as good and just. if both causes are good and just…then how can there be war? i am not trying to make the point that one is right or wrong for their belief of rightness or wrongness…just to say that as long as people from any country continue to view their way as right or good…and the enemy as bad who must be dealt with…then the cycle will continue. it is encumbent upon the Christian to follow in the footsteps of our King and end the vicious cycle of retaliation. we do not have to judge which side is “right” or “wrong” because we know the only right is the way and life of Jesus.

    3. i still will never understand why there are so many Christians who are so quick to defend the way of war/fighting/retaliation (and spend a lot of energy doing so)…rather than using all of their energy to defend and push forward the way of Jesus. there is a reason that we are referred to as the “body of Christ.” we ARE to be this body by taking on the full yoke of Christ. to the extent that we keep one foot in his Kingdom and one foot in the Kingdom of the world…we are nothing less than a harlot or prostitute. Christians want to fight so hard to preserve OUR ways of doing things and our means of acting and behaving in the world…yet in doing so we sell-out the life that Jesus has called us to. i wonder when the Roman guards or centurions said that they wanted to follow Jesus if he was cool with them still taking on their responsibilities for the Roman Empire? was he cool with them continuing to fight and war with people who were “bad” to defend the “good” Roman Empire? i wonder if he was cool with them killing Jewish insurgents who were trying to rebel? or was he cool with the Jewish insurgents (who were fighting the good cause..right?) rising up and killing the “bad” Roman soldiers? the Romans thought they were bringers of peace, justice, and prosperity and that the insurgents needed to be killed in order to preserve those things…YET the Jewish “freedom fighters” thought they were just for fighting the “oppressive and enslaving” super power. do you see? CHRISTIANS HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS!!! there is only one way that is GOOD and it looks EXACTLY LIKE JESUS!!! let’s start working to defend and preserve HIS WAY!!!

    thanks for the discussion….




  8. We are told in 1 Timothy to pray for those in authority (i.e., the govt.) so that we might lead quiet and peaceful lives whereby we can pursue our walk with God in peace. As we pray for govt…to protect us….does it not stand to reason then…that we are in essence praying for those who guard us militarily? What about those who protect us on the streets…i.e., police officers? When confronted by an assailant with a gun…should the police officer “pray for them”…or use the force necessary to confront the evil? When faced with an evil person who wants to detonate a bomb killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children…..should we simply pray for them….or use force to mitigate the threat?

    When soldiers asked John the Immerser what fruits should they bring forth to show their repentance, John did not tell them they had to take off the uniform of the Roman soldier because it was inconsistent with the kingdom of heaven.

    Our battle is not against flesh and blood…therefore our weapons are spiritual ones. That does not make govt’s role of a flesh and blood battle any less ordained by God…in fact…Paul uses the term that govt. has been ordained by God.

    Do some govt’s not live up to their God ordained role? Without question!…in the same way many Christians do not live up to their roles of spiritual warfare.

    However, the fact remains the govt. has a God ordained purpose and Christians should not only pray for that role to fill its God ordained purpose…..when possible we should act to do so.


  9. i believe the lens through which you read the passage in 1 timothy is a very americanized lens. read it again from the perspective of paul and why he was writing it. he was writing it to encourage timothy, church leaders, and other young churches to pray for the governmental leaders so that the christians could live in peace and not be terrorized by the Roman government and Nero. paul was not telling the church to pray for those who “guard” them…he was telling them to pray for the government that terrorizes them. we need to keep things in context. to that extent…i am not…nor will i ever…suggest that we ought not pray for our government and leaders.

    i am sure that every conversation that a soldier had with John was not recorded in the Bible. but…i do not think one will find anywhere where Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being consistent with fighting and warring to promote or protect peace.

    finally, i can tell by your examples that you believe there is a limitation in the power of prayer…especially in situations that are met with extreme violence. i do believe that prayer has the power to diffuse the bomb, jam the gun, etc. but i also believe there are non-violent ways for the christian to face aggression. the government will handle violence and aggression the way it sees fit. the question for a follower of jesus is, “to whom do i have allegiance…and is christ calling me out of the ways of the world into his ways?” i believe that he is ALWAYS calling people out of those ways and into his. if more and more people believed it and moved toward it…there would be fewer people flaming the fires of violence and more people standing up non-violently and praying for peace in the world.


  10. So Brandon…do I understand you be a “pacifist” in the purest sense of the word…i.e., if your wife was theatened by a rapist…you would simply pray for the rapist? I read the 1 Timothy passage in light of other passage on the same subject…i.e. Romans….that again, further shows that the God ordanined role of the govt. is to punish evil and protect those who do good. My American lens has nothing to do with it. But back to the question….would you simply pray that the rapist would not harm your wife? One of the faults I find with the church of Jesus Christ today is more than enough prayer (i.e., words) and very little action.


  11. Brandon…to clarify….if you are a pacifist….I respect that. I really do. However, two things I have noticed about pacifists. One, most are not consistent. In order to follow the thinking of the pacifists to his/her logical conclusion would mean that philisophically they could not even call the police. Or…they are pacifists until their family is theatned as stated above in the rape scenario. Second, I have found historically and even now….pacifists can only prosper where there are those who are not pacifists who are willing to die for their country. Prayer is a powerful tool..the first line of the offensive. However, prayer is not the “be all–end all”. I can pray all I want for my neighborhood to be evangelized…but at some time, as Joshua was told…it’s time to quit praying and go fight…i.e., it’s time to quit praying and knock on doors. I praise God for your strong belief in the power of prayer. I just think you create an un-necessary dichotomy.


  12. i will respond and add some some final remarks, and give you the final word. but first, let me thank you for the respectful dialogue. these are great issues that are worth discussing and praying over…so thank you for the dialogue.

    first to answer your immediate question. although i am a sinful human being…being renewed daily by the work of the Holy Spirit to be more like Jesus Christ in thought, action, and deed…i would strive to put the words of Jesus into practice in a holistic way in each and every situation of my life. when Jesus tells us to not repay evil with evil, to bless rather than curse, to turn the other cheek, that is what i strive for. in situations of immediate threat…how would you suppose Jesus would respond? is it possible to intervene peaceably? is it possible to stand in between people fighting without resorting to violence? is restraining a person violence? i hope that the way you phrased your opening question was not meant to belittle the means through which i would try to handle violence. for it seems that we all ought to be asking how we might be able to be like Jesus in the midst of injustice…by responding in self-sacrificial love. i do not want to demean anyone…but it seems as if the easy way out is just to kill somebody in retaliation for injustice. if that is the position that you want to spend your life working toward…i am fine with it. i just choose to not make that my pursuit.

    secondly, to be specific, the two passages that form the basis of your argument (1 Timothy 2 and Romans 13) can only support your position if taken out of context. i will agree with you in your point that God puts governments in positions of authority. but…to the extent that we (as Christians) are to join those governments and the pursuits of those governments when they compromise the way and life of Jesus…i do not agree with. once again…if you read Romans 12 and 13 together…you realize that Paul is telling Christians how to respond to oppressors and enemies at the end of chapter 12 and then goes right into how that conduct is carried out by Christians in response to their government (in submission…so as avoid punishment by the government and to have a clear conscience).

    the same holds true for the passage in 1 Timothy. again, “when you understand the context in which he is writing…he is writing it to encourage timothy, church leaders, and other young churches to pray for the governmental leaders so that the christians could live in peace and not be terrorized by the Roman government and Nero. paul was not telling the church to pray for those who “guard” them…he was telling them to pray for the government that terrorizes them.”

    i will close with this, “the wisdom of man is the foolishness of God.” who would have ever thought that the Kingdom of God would be exploding exponentially over the last 30 years in Communist China? under one of the most oppressive governments in the 21st century, we see that God is breathing life into His church. through the human rights abuses and religious persecutions, God is bringing a dead body back to life. yes…God can use governments and authorities for His Kingdom purposes. btw…what about our own country and the church…compare and contrast to china.

    God can also use great men like Martin Luther King, Jr…who stood firm in his non-violent protests against slavery. in the face of beating, mutilations, and even murder…King responded in a Christ-like way to an oppressive government and did it without war and violence.

    it is a good thing that we were not around when Christ was arrested…because we would have fought back. when he was wrongly and unjustly convicted…we would have argued and fought back. when they whipped him and beat him…we would have punched the aggressors in the face. when he was hung on the cross we would have mobilized a little resistance army to fight our way in and rescue this innocent man who was the victim of great injustice. we hardly would have believed through it all…that somehow…someway…despite us…that God would redeem it all and come out victorious. the victory was won by doing it with self-sacrificial love and peace…without compromising and doing it the way the world would have done it. we are called to nothing less than to emulate Jesus as his body in the world today. i hold out the hope that i do not have to compromise my pursuit of being like Christ for His Kingdom to move forward.

    God bless you brother…and thanks for the dialogue!




  13. As well…..I thank you for the peaceful diaglog and the earnest way in which you seek to be more like Christ in all you do. May that be the goal of each of us.

    While the rules for the theocentric nation of Israel and the church are much different….I do believe there is a time for peace…and a time for war.

    When that time for war is….is a debate the has raged for ages all the way back to Augustine’s definintions of a “Just War.”

    I do want to make clear…I do not/nor have I ever prescribed to the “anything America does is blessed by God” mentality.

    I do believe that God uses nations to either judge or deliver other nations. I believe strongly that America has been used in the past to bring justice. I pray in the future that she will continue to bring justice….and if not…I pray that God will spare our nation.

    God’s best to your and your family!

    PS: Your sister and brother in law are a real joy to my life in the way they give so much of themselves to the service of Christ and His church.


  14. here’s a question; hopefully it wasn’t asked by someone else
    What if the governing authority had fallen off the rocker? What if they were forcing the masses to believe how they believe, work how they work, or deceive how they deceive, and teach us to step on heads to get to the top? What if this went world-wide? And is obviously a tyranny to God Himself, do we still honor the government then? I believe that there is a time coming when a veil will be pulled over our eyes to make it almost impossible to see truth, at least if our eyes are not fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith. It will be a time when what seems good and true and everyone is doing it, and if I don’t do it, I won’t be able to purchase, or function in society as everyone else. Yet it is against all that I KNOW to be good and right in this world- even against God by worshiping an icon. It takes slow acceptance and time to brainwash our children to make something like that happen. Consider seeing an animal on t.v. get injured, or wrongfully beat to death…oooh how we cringe at the thought. Yet when we see a human get ripped apart or brutally murdered on a show that we have been watching, it was as if it was no big thing, see it all the time.
    Once again, what do we do when an entire government is trying to pull the wool over our eyes? Do we still respect and abide by their stupid, twisted rules? Before we know it, we will have to take a number on our foreheads to prove that we are a part of their power and control society to do anything in this world. A little far fetched? Hmmm- one world currency, is that far off? One world leader, new world order, step in line or die because of going against the grain. Ahh the signs of the times. Do we really know who we are serving when we make pacts, agreements and sign documents with governing authorities over/with us? Do we know who they serve? And do we really WANT to know?


  15. i couldn’t say it any better than Greg Boyd, from His blog The Bible, Government, and Christian Anarchy:

    “Can Christians ever serve in a political office? Should they even vote? Should they serve in the military or even the police force? We are not of the world, but we are in the world. This tension creates an ambiguity in our lives that cannot be resolved by a set of ethical rules. I am content to lay out the Scripture as bluntly as I can, reflect on them as honestly as I can, and call on people to seek God’s will for their life. We are never to judge others for the decisions they make (Rom. 14), but we also must never sugar-coat the clear and radical teaching of the Word.

    Kingdom people have one Master and serve one Kingdom. In light of this, the lords of the earth and kingdoms of the world are irrelevant to us. Our job is to build his Kingdom by doing what Jesus did. Nothing must distract us from this one task.

    I leave it to individual consciences and to the Holy Spirit to apply this to each individual’s life.”


  16. Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?


  17. I am not a Christian anymore but was for the majority of my life, and while I was a part of that world one of my biggest concerns was exactly what you’re addressing here. The same congregation that was preaching peace and love was also supporting a war machine that had nothing to do with defending the faith that they held. The wars we fight are entirely political and the “freedom” we fight for is not a mental freedom as we should be fighting for. However, if there were to be an invasion of this country and my family were threatened with violence from that invader, I would have to defend them, possibly violently. While I would hate to take another life, I do feel that it is my duty to protect the lives of those I love. Great post, and I completely agree with the points you make.


  18. our true freedom, that we must fight for with every bit of our energy is our own powerlessness. It is following Christ in the renunciation of privilege, security, and the right to our own lives as we know them that we must take up arms against.

    We have no oppressor to fear because Christ has overcome the world. The thing we should fear most is not being oppressed, but remaining the oppressor.

    May the Lord himself continue to show us how.


  19. so I sit here, empty, hollowed out. Have I wasted those 25 years, trying to defend people I don’t know from murder, oppression, abuse, torture, trying to do what is just and noble? Sacrifices for nothing? Is it now dust? Why am I here? If not to protect and defend, then what? I want to be mad and argue and defend what I’ve done, but truth, if you’ll hear it, rings loud in the belly. A war rages around us (and for us) daily between heaven and hell, angels vs demons. My God is a warrior, The Warrior, but Christ calls us to peace. When Jesus’ disciple cut off the ear of the person arresting Him, Jesus healed the man and told his disciple to put his sword away. I believe God has no limits as to His power, but I doubt my faith in His power. Do I think prayer can’t avert disaster at a moment’s notice? Yes, but I have to know and trust God so intimately, that I can call heaven to my rescue, and know that heaven will move, and I can’t say I have that relationship. And even then, God’s plan may be different than mine for that day, so heaven may not move at all if I surrender to His will. It is so hard to trust, especially what you can’t see. If I don’t defend, and I doubt my faith, then it will be my family that suffers and I’m not sure I am ready for that level of sacrifice. I am not Abraham. We like to think we are in control, but this universe is like a storm that pitches us where it wants. So now what? Throw down my sword and walk away? I don’t know how. He will have to show me the way, because I don’t know how to process this one yet. I would like to both thank you and smack you. I mean that in the best possible way.


    1. hey David… thanks so much for the response. when I write I try not to guilt or indict people, as much as I try to honestly wrestle with the person of Jesus and who, through the Spirit, God is making each of us to be as his followers. I always pray that it is not my words that convince people, but ultimately the Spirit that convicts people. to that end, I loved your response. it is the most honest response I have ever received on any of my posts… because it was the heart and evidence of a struggle. and I believe that is exactly where God works and moves. I did not have these same ideas or positions even six years ago. and for a solid three years all I did was wrestle and struggle and ask questions. God moved me from one extreme to the other. it wasn’t by my choice, or based upon my deep seated feelings. it was God at work changing me.

      all that to say… I really appreciated your honest comment. we really need more of that.

      peace brother…



  20. Struggle…maybe a knock-down drag out fight with Him all the time for me, ha ha! Understanding His will some days seems an impossible task, except that he shares it in His time, and re-shares it when I continue not to get it. I argue with Him, shake my fist at Him, yell, cry, doubt, and He loves me and is patient, and over time brings me to His will. I can be stubborn, arrogant, hard headed, etc., but I believe He knows my heart and that I want to change, but what people don’t get is that it is not a minor adjustment to get in line, it is an uncomfortable transformation, that contains decision points that are never easy. I appreciate your approach as you described it…”honestly wrestle with the person of Jesus and who, through the Spirit, God is making each of us to be as his followers.” That is where I am. Understanding which of my beliefs and behaviors come from me the American, vs me the church-goer, vs how I was raised, vs Christian values, vs who is Jesus and what is he trying to tell me? Peeling back the onion one layer at a time…as the Spirit convicts me to make a change. Thanks Brandon.


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