Christians, Freedom, and Human Rights

Over the past two years, many of us as Christians have forgotten our baptism.

Oh, sure, we might remember when we were baptized, or maybe we have the certificate or pictures to prove it. But we’ve forgotten what we were baptized into. We’ve forgotten what our baptism means.

The Christian understanding of freedom and human rights, like pretty much everything that is meaningfully “Christian,” grows out of our understanding of Jesus: his teachings, his way of life, his death and resurrection.

Jesus looked to his Scriptures, the Tanakh (what Christians call the Old Testament), and he read them with a highlighter. He highlighted passages like “Love your neighbour as yourself,” claiming that this was bound up with the command to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” We show our love for God by loving our neighbours as ourselves.

And Jesus defined our “neighbour” broadly, yet with special emphasis. The neighbours we are to love include anyone we come across as we go through life, even if that includes the stranger or the foreigner—the outsider to our circles, the socially “other.” Yet Jesus, following the Torah and the Prophets, emphasized love for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the enslaved, the downtrodden—those especially vulnerable to harm, the socially powerless.

This comes through in another passage Jesus highlighted in his Scriptures, a passage from the Prophet Isaiah which he took as his life’s mission:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Jesus didn’t just teach these things, he lived them.

As the Apostle Paul puts it, Jesus set aside his own divine privileges—his own “rights” as God, you might say—in order to serve humanity in love. He sought out the powerless, he healed the sick, he blessed the poor, he spoke out against oppression and abuse of power against those most at risk. Jesus walked in solidarity with the lowest of the low, even dying a slave’s death, an oppressed and colonized people’s death, executed by the state on a cross. All out of love of neighbour.

This is the basis for a Christian view of freedom and human rights. Human rights are about ensuring basic rights for all people, for all people are created in God’s image. Yet in considering human rights Christians follow Jesus in seeking especially to ensure the rights of those most vulnerable to harm by powerful people and those most prone to oppression or marginalization by the powers that be.

And no, Christians in North America, that’s not us.

And freedom for Christians is about freedom to love our neighbours as ourselves, freedom to walk in Jesus’ way of love, again paying special attention to the socially “other” and the socially powerless. This is what true freedom is: loving others with the liberating love of God, so that they might be freed from all forms of bondage and oppression.

And no, Christians in North America, we are not being oppressed.

Here, then, is where too many of us as Christians have forgotten our baptism.

We have been baptized into Christ to follow the way of Christ, Jesus’ way of love. We have been baptized into Christ to walk in the freedom Jesus brings: liberated from the power of sin, our selfish ways of harm, to walk in Jesus’ way of love. In Christ we have the freedom not to pursue our own self-interest but the interests of others. In Christ we have the freedom to set aside our own rights and privileges to serve one another in love.

If you consider yourself a Christian, I urge you to remember your baptism. Remember the calling to which you were called. Remember the freedom for which Christ has set you free, and don’t settle for some pale imitation of the real thing. There are a lot of Christians right now peddling this fake freedom, and doing so in the name of Christ—don’t buy it, it’s not of Jesus.

And for God’s sake, and your neighbours’, get vaccinated if you can and wear a mask when you need to.


4 thoughts on “Christians, Freedom, and Human Rights

  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    Thank you for using your voice and platform to speak truth into what is happening in our country right now. Thank you for your willingness to speak up against the prevalent message that says Christianity is all about our personal rights and freedoms.
    Jesus warns us about false teachers. He told us they come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. He says you recognized a person by their fruit: A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Many people will claim to be his followers, but their fruit does not match up with God’s values of selfless love and servanthood.
    To Titus Paul writes: Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. (Remember, Paul wrote this to a people who were being oppressed and persecuted by the Roman Government at the time)
    How many Christians have exchanged the pursuit of God’s kingdom to pursue and protest for their own rights and freedoms at the expense of others. Their fruits are envy, discord, jealousy dissention, and outbursts of anger. On the other hand, the fruits of abiding with God in his kingdom are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and the like.
    I am all about our constitutional rights to peaceful protest, and I to, am so sick of this pandemic along with its restrictions; I cannot wait for it all to be over. Personally, I cannot imagine what this has been like for health care providers; they are the true heroes! But please don’t make these protests a Christian or faith issue. It is not. Jesus was all about loving and caring for those who are vulnerable or marginalized. As a Christian, the least we should be doing is getting a vaccine and wearing a mask to protect those who lives are at risk.
    I will end with these words from John: This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

  2. I have found your article posted on the official FB page of the BIC church of Canada. I read with great interest, thank you so much for posting. As a mental health professional myself, I have been observing some things with grave concern. Many church members (particularly evangelicals) have joined this ‘freedom movement’. Of particular interest to me is the BIC church members. One of their leaders, a former pastor and former MP, visible, present and vocal in support of this movement, which we now know, was an attempt to overthrow our democratically elected government. How is this possible? Particularly when we live and enjoy one of the most free societies in the world. It is obvious that the freedom that they seek is their ‘individual’ freedom. What happened to ‘the good of the many, outweigh the good of the few’. Are we not willing to sacrifice something personally for the sake of others. Did no-one read Orwell in school? I grew up within the tradition of the BIC church. That tradition was most certainly Anabaptist and non-violent. Peacemaking and championing the cause of the poor and most vulnerable. Do the official symbols of the BIC not apply anymore. A short dive into social media and you soon see images similar to ‘F#CK TRUDEAU’. I looked in vain to anything on official BIC sites for a position and your article was all I could find. Following a read of your article I looked on official Mennonite website and found a position statement, referencing the symbols of white nationalism etc. My email requests to the leadership of BIC for some clarification, have yet to be even acknowledged.

    I thought/hoped that your article might open some constructive dialogue, but mean spirited comments followed and then the moderator suspended all comments. I am hopeful that the BIC church have not lost their way, but I fear otherwise. Thank you for your willingness to bring some reason and compassion. True freedom is now under viscous attack in Ukraine. Lovers of freedom….THIS is worthy of action. In South Africa there is a saying UBANTU – I am because you are.

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