What is your notion of freedom? Is it to say, you are free to pursue anything you want without any restraint?
What if we raised our kids that way – my parenting is to be hands off and I’ll let my boys do whatever they want, when they want. They could eat junk food all day and play videos and sleep at midnight. Is that freedom? Yes, but it would not be loving to live this way.
Freedom and love go together. Love is more constraining than we think – it’s a lot of putting limitations and setting boundaries. Clean your room, get in bed by 8:15pm.
A fish could say, I want to be free. Little Nemo might want to jump out of the fish tank and be free. In high school, I put some very large fish into my very small fish tank and they wanted to be free. So they jumped out. I found them the next morning and they did not look very free.
As a parent, I have limitations. I can’t quit my job and try out for american idol just on a whim, although my chances of winning might be good. You could say as parents, my options are limited, but that’s what it means to be a loving father. I can’t live based on emotion. I may not feel like going to work (like you might not feel like going to school), but the difference is, if I miss one or two days, i could be fired whereas you miss a few weeks of school, you can still pass the class.
Love involves constraints and limitations but if you stay within those boundaries, there is freedom.
A violinist says yes to that one pursuit and by necessity he has to say no to many other things. He can’t play with friends whenever he feels like it. He has to invest every free moment to practice. And it seems so limiting. But when a virtuoso takes the stage after years of practice, he is not a beginner bound by notes. In his/her effortless expression of his music, we all can see he/she is free.
At a societal level, we stay within the boundaries of the law because if we break the law, we will be thrown into prison. You could say in a free society, I should be able to do whatever i want. Why is the government imposing laws on me to limit my freedom. If I want to have 5 wives and kill my neighbor because he plays loud music, I should be able do do as I wish. Why is society putting these laws to shackle my freedom. But that’s not freedom, that’s anarchy. Staying within the laws of our land, there is freedom, but freedom with certain limitations.
Another example is marriage – love is saying yes to one woman and no to everyone else in the world. And that is not a ball and chain. Within the boundaries of fidelity in marriage, there is freedom. I can be free to be myself, intimacy is possible because there is security by two people committing to one another.
To transgress certain boundaries can destroy you. To break the law could land you in prison. If I get bored of my wife and want to upgrade, I can be free to pursue another woman but transgressing that boundary of fidelity in marriage will destroy my life, my wife’s life, the lives of our children.
People say Christianity is like a straight-jacket. I can’t hate my brother or be greedy or commit adultery. And this complaint goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden. Why did God put the fruit in the Garden of Eden? If God loved us, wouldn’t he give us absolute freedom to eat any fruit in the garden? Why does he put that one fruit in the middle of the garden so that one day we might be sleepy and accidentally take a bite out of the wrong one? I thought God loves me. Why am I not free to eat of all the fruit and this forbidden fruit? Why even have a forbidden fruit to begin with?
Because the forbidden fruit was God’s boundary. He gave humanity a choice. If you love me, you will stay within the boundaries that I created. If you choose to reject me, eat of the fruit, that’s your way out of our relationship.
To love is to choose to stay within the boundaries of a relationship. If you think about it, every relationship has a forbidden fruit, a thou shalt not. For God, it was thou shalt not eat of this forbidden fruit. In marriage, thou shalt not commit adultery and fidelity is the boundary that should not be transgressed for the relationship to remain intact. In friendship, thou shalt not betray and loyalty is the boundary that a true friend must not cross.
Staying within the right boundary lines in a loving relationship is a choice. It is saying I value you and our relationship enough to respect the boundary lines. And within the security of remaining within the boundary lines, true, authentic relationship can flourish.
Sadly, we all know what happened in the Genesis account. Adam and Eve saw that boundary as a restraint, a chain, and they said I want to be free. I want to decide what is right and wrong. I want to create my own laws. And that is exactly what happened. God granted them their wish and anarchy ensues. Today, we live in a world that reflects that decision of Adam and Eve wanting to be their own gods. Now anything goes.
Having transgressed the boundaries set by God, humans are free in the sense that they can call the shots and determine what is worthwhile and beautiful and proper and right in their own eyes. But this so-called freedom comes at great cost.
The Bible says we are all slaves to something. Rom 6:16-18 – 16Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But 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. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
When we don’t know God and choose to live apart from Him, we are a slave to sin. There are only 2 kinds of people in the world — you are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness (God).
To become a Christian is to become a slave/servant of God. We no longer live as we please but we let God call the shots.
If you read Acts 21-28, Paul is in chains for the gospel. Because he is a slave to God, Paul ends up in chains in a Roman prison because through Paul being imprisoned, God wanted to advance the gospel throughout the Roman world. Paul being in chains was not in vain. In Philippians, we read that because Paul was in chains, many of the other believers preached with more boldness and courage. By 313 A.D. the Edict of Milan was enacted by the first Christian Roman emperor declaring religious freedom throughout the Empire.
If you are a slave to God, then God will ask you to limit your freedom for the sake the gospel. Love is self-limiting. Love puts self-imposed boundaries limiting one’s own needs so that you can focus on the needs of the one you love.
Are there people for whom God wants you to be in chains?