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Published on June 7, 2019 by Dave Swenson

For the second year in a row, I boarded a plane from Denver bound for Choma, Zambia to teach in Poetice’s School of Justice + Mission. I came to Zambia last year to support and spend time with my close friends John and Abby who help oversee the organization. Friendship and prayer must be the compass that guides us in how we invest our time and resources: Who has and is God calling me to partner with? A second reason, I came and have come again, is the sense of prophetic hope I feel over Africa as a continent. Many African nations are still in the process of recovering a social and cultural identity that was marred during centuries of tragic political, economic, and cultural exploitation. The body of Christ is growing here and there is a wave of young developing leaders who are deserving of time, resources, and encouragement as they prepare to lead their societies.

The topic given to me to explore was Freedom. For those in the developed western world, there is an innate value and legacy for Freedom stemming back to the American and French revolutions. In 1774, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American woman to have her thoughts published and printed, she once penned that “in every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle which we call love of freedom.”[1] If you consult an English dictionary you find a definition that sounds something like this, “freedom is the power or right to do what one wants without restriction or coercion.” Which upon first glance appears as a self-evident truth that nearly anyone would consent to. However, embedded within these words are two very definitive and modern assumptions about anthropology. This definition tells us that humans beings are fundamentally (1) autonomous individuals (2) who are in control of their wants.

When we explore the biblical narrative of scripture and we begin to see quite a different story. Human beings actually social creatures, for whom it is “not good” to be alone,[2] and we bear the image of our trinitarian God only as we are in right relationship with him and others.[3] Modern sociology and psychology affirm this biblical truth that we are irreducibly social creatures, that is our identities are formed within communities.[4]

So what does this mean for freedom?

It means that unbridled freedom is actually an illusion. We cannot do whatever we want without those actions having implications on our world and communities. Further, the deepest wants and desires that we think we chose are actually being formed in us by the very same communities we participate in. The entire industry of advertising is built on the sheer fact that our wants can be manipulated and oriented toward specific ends—to purchase their product or service!

What does this mean for Jesus followers and the “freedom” we have in Christ?[5] It means, paraphrasing Paul, that we always serve some master, as contingent creatures we are always entrusting ourselves to someone or something.[6] Thus, in Christ, we gain freedom from sin, the law, and ultimately the universal feeling that we have to do it ourselves, so that we may become slaves to Christ. But Christ is a good slave master, he does not treat us like servants, but friends and his adopted family.[7] In Christ we discover that we are freed for a purpose, we are freed so that we may realize we belong—and when we know we belong, we have been set free indeed.[8]

Join me in praying for these young leaders in the School of Justice + Mission, that they would not only know the forgiving Grace of God but Christ’ liberating power as well!

Dave Swenson is a guest teacher at our School of Justice+Mission.


[1] Ibram Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (London: Bodley Head, 2017), 100.

[2] Genesis 2:18.

[3] Matthew 22:38-39.

[4] For a good summary of the integration of Biblical theology and social anthropology see Stanley J. Grenz, The Social God and the Relational Self (), .

[5] Galatians 5:1, 13.

[6] Romans 6:15.

[7] John 15:15 and Romans 8:15-16.

[8] John 8:36