It’s an awesome thing, to celebrate freedom.
But the truth is, freedom is an awesome responsibility.
Because true freedom is not limitless; true freedom is only freedom within limits.
Have you ever gone swimming by yourself in a lake—the water feels good, you feel really peaceful, until suddenly you look up and you are a long way from shore? Not only that, but you can’t figure out where on shore you came from and need to get back to? Suddenly, the freedom you felt a moment before turns into a fear that makes you feel lost, alone, and very, very vulnerable.
The same thing can happen when you’re alone in a field and you lose sight of the house, or when you’re alone in the woods and you suddenly feel like someone—or something—is out there with you. That’s when you realize that you would feel a whole lot more comfortable, a whole lot safer, a whole lot freer to relax … if you were protected by a fence, or four walls and a door with a deadbolt.
Freedom requires safety. And safety requires limits.
And sure, we think of limits as bad because, well, they are limiting, after all.
We feel trapped within limits, like prisoners, subject to someone else. This is the very reason so many people resent and reject God—the very idea that there is someone or something greater than themselves who knows better and places limits on them is galling.
But the freedom we think we want—freedom without responsibility—in actuality becomes a prison for us.
Cheating on your husband or wife isn’t freedom from a boring marriage; it’s a complicated web of lies and deception and guilt and shame and resentment.
A life addicted to prescription drugs is not freedom from pain; it’s an intricately complicated system of fooling doctors and family as your body and mind and spirit break down and the meds become too familiar to have the same effect they had at first.
Lying to your parents isn’t freedom and independence; it’s a lonely and pointless existence filled with bitterness and hurt because you’ve put up a wall between yourself and the only people who truly want what’s best for you.
And living a life that denies God and denies the reality of sin isn’t a life without religion and rules; it’s a life with a hole in it—a life that desperately seeks to feel accepted and to be known by a loving God.
Without Jesus Christ, we are enslaved to our fickle ideas and desires and tastes that are always changing, constantly contradicting each other, and never giving any satisfaction.
FREEDOM IN CHRIST
But freedom in Christ means that we are free to be the people we were called to be.
No matter how much I may want it, I am not free to be a billionaire televangelist with a private jet—any more than I am free to be Justin Verlander. I am also not free to be anyone else I might be jealous of, or to have what they have.
But when I live according to my calling and not someone else’s—when I learn to be content with the limits God has placed on me—then I experience the freedom of being me! I can stop worrying about what everyone else has, or what I don’t have, and start seeing clearly all of the many wonderful things I do have.
And then, maybe, if I live in God’s Word, I can stop hating myself and start seeing myself as He sees me in Christ—and maybe I can even start loving myself. And the same is true for you.
Freedom is knowing that you are not God! Freedom is knowing that someone truly greater than you—someone all-knowing, all-powerful, unchanging, and perfectly good—holds your life in His hands! Freedom is knowing that all of your pain, all of your hurts, all of your wounds, and all of your scars will not last forever.
Freedom is knowing that all the hurts you’ve caused, all the mistakes you’ve made, all the shameful things you’ve said and done have been washed away by the blood of Christ.
One of my absolute favorite passages in all of Scripture is this:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2).
Our freedom—true freedom—comes in knowing God in and through Christ, studying His Word, and living by His commands—trusting that He wants what is best for us and knowing we are forgiven when we fail.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:31–32, 36).
This article was first published at reverik.com, where you can read more of Pastor Schmidt’s writings.
Photo © bjdlzx/iStock