Freedom is one of those buzz words that carries a ton of weight in our culture. Politically, socially, and spiritually, it is a word that gets thrown around in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of meanings. We like these kinds of words because they carry so much weight that we feel they automatically win us an argument. Who’s going to argue against freedom or truth? And so, we get the occasional jerk saying, “I just tell it like it is” and the occasional sinner saying, “I’m just exercising my freedom.”
Generally, when we talk about freedom, we are using this definition: “freedom is doing whatever I want.”
This isn’t exactly true. There are consequences for our actions. This definition of freedom renders boundaries oppressive, rules limiting, and self-control obsolete. The hard truth is that, if I kill a person, there will be consequences. Not just legally, but within my spirit. I know it’s wrong and even if I ‘get away with it’, it would haunt me forever. In a real sense, I am shackling myself to the consequences of that decision.
The Bible says that it is for freedom we have been set free. “Do not let yourselves, therefore, be burdened by the yoke of slavery.”
There are two options at play here. Either a) Scripture is saying to ignore the consequences of sin and do whatever you want or b) it is telling us that true freedom is operating within the peace of boundaries, guidelines, and self-control.
The truth is this: when we talk about freedom, an ugly side of us is really fighting for control. That is what we really want. We want to control the consequences. We want to control the attitude of others. We want to do what we want so that we can control the story, define the narrative, in short – be the god of our own lives.
True freedom is in the laying down of control. True freedom is an acknowledgement and adherence to the spiritual boundaries of the created world. Understanding the places we shouldn’t go and refusing to go to them is not a sacrifice of our freedom; it is self-control. It is a death to power, not freedom itself.
We cannot control the way the world works, the reactions of others, or the natural internal consequences of our sins. Our cleverly veiled exploits in the name of ‘freedom’ are the lies we tell ourselves in order to try to wrestle control away from its proper places.
Freedom, in its truest sense, is a release from darkness. And darkness can be self-imposed as much as it can be forced upon us.
Psalm 119:45 says, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”
I suppose the point could be made that we are ‘free’ to choose enslavement. I am not talking about freedom in this sense, the freedom to choose. I am talking about the kinds of choices that make us free. That might seem an unnecessary distinction, but I’ll point again to what Paul says, “It is for freedom that we have been set free” (Galatians 5:1). Our ability to choose is designed to lead us to freedom. The mistake we make is thinking that our ability to choose is freedom itself.
Self-serving choice is the soul’s demand for control. Only through the sacrificial choice will we truly discover freedom. We must lose our lives to gain it.