Election Madness and the Idol of Freedom

If the son frees you, then you really will be free. John 8:36

There’s nothing that we Americans seem to hate more than our own government. And yet, it seems that so often we put so much of our trust and hope in it. Luther, in his Large Catechism, says that a god is anything that we look to in times of need. Anything that we fear, love, and trust above all else. It seems safe to say that however you feel or whomever you ended up deciding to vote for, that this election has shown us that even our own democratic political system will inevitably fail us and disappoint us. We value following “the will of the people,” but the will of the people gets us Hillary and Trump.

But, what were we looking for anyway? What did we want the government to give us? Lots of things, but in short: freedom. All of us want freedom, although we disagree about what that freedom looks like. Freedom for whom? Freedom from what? But at the end of the day, every politician is trying to convince us that if we just vote for them, then we will be free, or at least freer.

We all buy into this. We all have a sense that “if we could just (insert policy here), then we would be free.” If we could just go back to the constitution, if we could just rid Washington of its corruption, if we could just get the government out of our business, if we could just restrain the greed of Wall Street, if we could just make sure everyone is treated equitably, if we could just… The list goes on. But nothing that the government can do will really every make any of us truly free.

Why?

For starters, for every solution that we come up with, we gain about a dozen new problems.

But also, we’re still going to die.

Sure, the government can free us from certain things, but at the end of the day, they cannot free us from death. Only God can do that. In Jesus, the eternal and all-powerful God and creator of the universe became a man, and thereby God made his holy dwelling among us. He didn’t come just as an example for us to follow and try to gain life for ourselves. No. None of that. He came to give us freedom. But not as the world gives us freedom. The freedom of this world makes us free for a little while, but eventually death comes to claim us. We are ultimately slaves to death. Instead, Jesus’ freedom frees us from the bondage and power of sin and death.

But, how does he do this? Through a miraculous display of power, glory, and might? Hardly. He defeats death by dying himself. He is victorious in his weakness. This world teaches us that freedom comes from power. Freedom comes from standing up for your God-given rights and fighting for them. But that’s not what Jesus does. He was not a revolutionary. He was not an insurrectionist. He was an innocent man, who did not put up a fight, who allowed himself to be falsely accused, tried, and put to death. He allowed his God-given rights to violated, and he is killed by human beings who were afraid of him because he claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, the king, and thereby might stir up trouble with Rome. He was killed by people who wanted to preserve their own freedom. Sounds a lot like us.

But what looked like Jesus’ defeat was anything but. He forever destroyed death by rising from the dead after his crucifixion. In his resurrection he gives us freedom from death and new life forever. This is why the New Testament so often refers to death as a sleep. Because you wake up from a sleep, and so also Christians even though we still die, we will wake up. Just like Jesus, God will raise us from the dead on the Last Day. This is freedom, that death truly has no hold over us. It is the same freedom that gave Jesus’ disciples the boldness to go to their deaths proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had nothing to gain, but only everything to lose. But in Christ they have gained everything.

And so it is with us. No matter what happens to us. No matter what happens this election, no matter what the government does or fails to do, nothing can take away the freedom we have in Christ. Sure, the government can always take away our lesser freedoms, but they can never take away our ultimate freedom. And that’s the only freedom that matters.

In Jesus’ words: “If you all remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you all will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). And Jesus’ word that we remain in is this: that he comes to give us life. He comes to be the good shepherd and lay down his life for the sheep. This is why the Psalmist writes, “Put not your trust in princes” (146:3). Princes fail us. But the true king of kings, the king of heaven and earth does not fail. So, we can put our trust in him.

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