For her role in helping to organize the 2022 Trucker’s Freedom Convoy against government mandates, Tamara Lich spent 18 days in prison. During a bail review on May 19, 2022, a Crown prosecutor argued that Ms. Lich should be sent back to jail for accepting a freedom award from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom.
Whatever your views on the protests, or indeed the pandemic as a whole, it’s hard to deny the irony: we are now living in a time when celebrating freedom with an award can lead to the threat of imprisonment. The very word “freedom” has become controversial in some circles.
Even churches have not been immune to the divisions over public health regulations. Does loving your neighbour mean wearing a mask or resisting the government? Should Christians take a political stand, or is it unbiblical to seek freedom? How can we live in unity with our brothers and sisters who hold such different conscientious positions (see Eph. 4:3)?
There are no simple answers and, indeed, responding to these issues is a matter of profound personal discernment and conviction. However, it is worth recognizing that freedom is not simply a civic or secular concept: it is central to our spiritual formation as believers in Jesus.
Scripture frequently uses the imagery of slavery or imprisonment to describe a life without Christ (often recalling the brutal suffering of the Israelites in Egypt). Just as God led his people out of slavery, so the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus sets us free from the bondage of sin. 1 Corinthians 2:17 promises, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!” Galatians 5 echoes the same encouragement, reminding us that “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.”
At the same time, God’s word also makes it very clear that Godly freedom is not a license to do anything we want. The same passage in Galatians continues, “do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13). Similarly, Romans 6 exhorts believers not to use grace as an excuse to go on sinning – instead, we should live as slaves to righteousness, offering ourselves as instruments of God’s love and peace.
Of course, putting all this into practice is no easy task. We may agree on the same core principles, yet come to different conclusions when faced with complicated situations like the pandemic. Some of us may see compliance with the government as an act of obedience to God, who calls us to submission. Others may refuse to follow certain mandates based on deep conscientious objections (for instance, some Christians may take a moral stand against the use of medical treatments developed from aborted fetuses). Still others may decide that they cannot support policies which they perceive as destructive to individuals and communities. It is possible that some of these decisions may be misguided, fearful, or self-serving, but it is also possible that different responses still share a compassionate attitude.
Although it may not be easy to find common ground, Scripture reminds us that even those who disagree with us are loved by God and precious to Him. Recognizing this leads us from the personal application of freedom to the political context.
Freedom is worth protecting because it safeguards our own ability to live out our faith in diverse ways, without the threat of imprisonment or other reprisals. But that is not the only reason Christians should be interested in promoting a free society. When we defend freedom, we are granting others the same gift that God has given us: the ability to voluntarily seek after what is fulfilling, meaningful, and good. By allowing others to follow their own consciences, we humbly recognize that we ourselves are fallible – and, even if we are right, brute force will certainly not produce the heart-change that is necessary to bring others to the truth! Instead, we show Christ’s kindness towards our neighbours when we secure and maintain the freedom for everyone to think, speak, and act in accordance with their beliefs.
We can be thankful that Canada still upholds this freedom, but we should not be complacent. As Tamara Lich’s experience illustrates, it is becoming more difficult for individuals to hold dissenting views. Depending on the issue, those who refuse to comply with the majority may face serious repercussions. If we truly value freedom, now is the time to act. Make wise use of your freedom to vote, to speak, to gather. Stand fast in your beliefs; teach them to your children, share them with your friends. And as others see the beauty of God’s hope and courage in your life, may they freely choose to serve Him also!