Americans celebrate freedom. Yet it’s hard to consistently appreciate how costly freedom has been for those who sacrificed to defend and protect it.
Why is freedom so difficult to protect?
- Is there a kind of freedom that could threaten true freedom?
- Is there a freedom that is a form of bondage?
- Am I free to make decisions that will destroy my life and hurt others? Free to be in slavery?
Let’s talk about freedom
What is freedom and are the forces that threaten it always outside of us in the form of physical enemies? If freedom is the most cherished value of our times, what kind of freedom do we love?
David B. Hart observed that, “We live in an age whose chief moral value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the absolute liberty of personal volition, the power of each of us to choose what he or she believes, wants, needs, or must possess…”
This notion of absolute liberty seems to be at the root of our problem with freedom. We must face the universal and ugly fact that we are dangerous to ourselves when we embrace freedom without truth and without limits. The kind of freedom that provides for our well-being requires restraints and limits to protect it from destructive forces within and around us? It requires truth to expose the deception that enslaves us. We must reject this notion of absolute freedom because it is a deceptive myth.
“The account of Creation resounds with the establishment of boundaries. Almost all human cultures have pursued the task of defining and governing boundaries in human behavior. Every culture survives by the power of its institutions to bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs.”
“The story of modern Western culture, however—a culture built around the ideal of the sovereign self—is a story of the abandonment of restrictions and restraints in the name of human freedom. Our institutions have increasingly been defined in terms of encouraging liberation from limits rather than cultivating a conscientious honoring of limits.”
“Wendell Berry argues that, ‘we have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness,’ that ‘the commonly accepted basis of our economy is the supposed possibility of limitless growth, limitless wants, limitless wealth, limitless natural resources, limitless energy, and limitless debt. In our limitless selfishness, we have tried to define ‘freedom’ as an escape from all restraint.” (quoted by Ken Myers, Mars Hill).
We need a renewed interest in the value of limits, boundaries, restraints. Could we begin to see such things as blessings to be honored and protected? Could we develop a tradition that does not enslave us to legalism but bounds us in a loving accountability of mutual protection? Where do we look for these boundaries? Natural law? Divine law? Let’s talk about freedom with these concerns before us.
Humans were created as dependent creatures meant to flourish within divinely established limits. Life within these limits is true freedom. Life outside of divinely established limits is bondage.
Reflect on an encounter of Jesus with the religious leaders of His day. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36).
What did the apostle Paul mean when he wrote: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free.” (Galatians 5:1)?