This is the final post in a series of three on some of the paradoxes of true freedom.
Many in the modern world view freedom in terms of being free fromthings and people, or from truths and norms. The Christian, biblical understanding, however, is that freedom is for something. In the first post of this series we discussed the paradoxical idea that true freedom is the capacity to obey God. In the second, we noted that true freedom cannot exist or be workable unless it is limited.
In today’s post we will discuss two additional paradoxes of true freedom. I will limit my freedom to write extensively and treat them only briefly so that you are free to get to your cookout sooner!
The third paradox of true freedom is that it often exists as a result of prior constraint.
I am free to play the piano today only because as a child I limited my freedom to go out and play, instead disciplining myself to devote considerable time to practice.
I am free to spend money today only because as a younger man I constrained my freedom to do as I pleased, instead working to earn money and then saving it rather than spending it.
I am healthy and in good physical condition today only because I have limited my food intake and exercised regularly over the years.
The final paradox that we will discuss in this series is that we are only free by becoming slaves and servants of God. This is related to the paradox we pondered in the first post (that true freedom is the capacity to obey God), but it develops the fruits of this obedience.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36).
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness …. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Romans 6:17-20).
Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).
Conclusion: the absolute, detached freedom imagined by the world does not exist. Insisting on freedom without any connection to what is good and true does not free; it enslaves. True freedom exists within boundaries. Some things must be held constant and unyielding if there is to be freedom. Without rules, freedom breaks down and is crushed by anarchy, chaos, and power struggles. In the end, what makes us truly free is obeying the Father. Anything less is the slavery of sin.
*Image: King Nebuchadnezzar as a Wild Animal by an unknown artist, c. 1400-1410 [J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA]. The image refers to Daniel 4: 25-35: the prophet tells the king that he will lose his mind and live like a beast for seven years. The illustration is from Rudolf von Ems’ Weltchronik or “world chronicle” written in the mid-1200s.