“Another way we might misunderstand the nature of freedom is by thinking that freedom means a lack of personal responsibility. This misunderstanding runs rampant in the world around us. We see people abandoning their responsibilities to their families because they are tying them down.”
“You can’t make me do this. Don’t you know this is America?”
That’s a direct quote from one of our children. I don’t remember the exact circumstances. Nor do I remember what the “this” specifically was which brought such a statement of indignation. For all I know, the kid might have had a point – perhaps I was telling them they had to do something unreasonable.
Regardless, the thought process behind the response, which came after a long period of exasperation on the parts of both parent and child, was familiar to me. It was familiar because I’ve used it. Said it. Claimed it for myself many, many times. It’s the appeal to freedom.
You can’t tell me what to do. This is a free country, after all.
This is a free country (pretty sure). But thinking like this might be an indicator that we have a misunderstanding of what freedom is. Let me qualify, though – when I’m writing about “freedom” in this post, I am not meaning political freedom. I’m meaning spiritual freedom. I’m meaning the kind of freedom that’s important to Jesus. I’m meaning the kind of freedom that only Jesus can bring, that which He promised in John 8:
“If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
This is the kind of freedom we tend to misunderstand. Perhaps we do so because those other kinds of freedom are also present in our lives. Those freedoms are wonderful things – things that should be protected and fought for. And yet there is a different kind of freedom that the Bible talks about. Here, then, are three ways in which we might misunderstand the kind of freedom Jesus brings to His followers:
1. Freedom means a lack of moral constraint.
We might be tempted to think that freedom means a lack of moral constraint. This is a very ironic misunderstanding, especially for someone who claims the name of Jesus, because the opposite is actually true.
If we look back to the context of John 8, we see that Jesus told the Jews He was in conversation with that true freedom, and true slavery, was not only a physical reality, but a spiritual one. Slavery is a condition of the soul, not only an institution of man. And slavery is what comes when we abandon moral constraint, for “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34).
The kind of freedom Jesus brings leads us not to a lack of moral constraint, but to a greater kind of servitude in which we are actually free from the power of sin and yet bound by the righteousness of Christ. Ironically, true freedom means that we are free to obey with our whole selves.
2. Freedom means a lack of personal responsibility.
Another way we might misunderstand the nature of freedom is by thinking that freedom means a lack of personal responsibility. This misunderstanding runs rampant in the world around us. We see people abandoning their responsibilities to their families because they are tying them down. We see others making choices about their careers to avoid having people rely on them. Even in the church, we see people failing to volunteer to serve because it would inhibit their ability to do the things they really want to on the weekend.