The topic of freedom has been coming up a lot lately, so much so that I want to find three hours to watch Braveheart.
On Sunday night at our Bible study we looked at James 1. James writes:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
In our study we discussed the freedom offered by the perfect law. James suggests that when we look at God’s word and do what it says, that we’ll experience freedom. This is true, but our world is so fractured that we have a hard time believing it.
We’re so broken by sin and our view of God is so limited, that at first pass we think his word constrains us. How can God’s word give us freedom if it limits everything that we can do?
Don’t have sex outside of marriage.
Don’t get drunk.
Don’t hold a grudge.
Don’t let your anger cause you to sin.
We could look at that list and think that God’s only interested in limiting our choices and restricting our freedoms. But the paradox of freedom is that the more we follow God’s commands, the more freedom we experience.
We don’t necessarily experience freedom as our world defines it. Our world sees freedom as the ability to express ourselves in any manner that we see fit. This attitude has led to a wonderful world full of pornography, alcoholism, meaningless sex, greed, empty spiritualism and unfulfilled potential. People are free to choose those realities, but is that what real freedom looks like?
We were never created for the sin and brokenness of this world. All of the “freedoms” we’re afforded were never even supposed to be part of the human experience. God created us as sinless beings in perfect relationship with himself. Sin shackles our true nature and makes us slaves to whims and impulses we were never supposed to experience.
When we look into God’s perfect law we find freedom because God’s law shows us how we were intended to live. So instead of viewing God’s word as constraining us, we need to see it for what it is: the freedom to live the lives for which we were created.
In the eyes of our world, the freedom of God is a paradox. But for those of us who understand God’s intention for humanity, there is no paradox. There is only the opportunity to experience true freedom as we faithfully pursue God every day.
What helps you embrace the paradox of freedom?