Freedom always has two sides
– By Ron Simkins
The Biblical writers are insistent that “freedom” always has two dimensions, not one. Freedom is always both freedom FROM & freedom TO.
Another way to say this is that any step of freedom not only opens up new freedoms, but also brings new limitations. Here’s an example. I can choose to go to St. Louis, and this freedom then opens up many other potential freedoms to experience the sights and sounds of St. Louis. But, exercising this freedom also means that I cannot any longer choose to be at home today, nor can I experience the opportunities that being at home might have brought – both expected and unexpected. Nor, can I be at the NCF building, nor in Chicago, nor fly to Atlanta. In choosing one freedom I deny myself another.
Now as simplistic as that all sounds, it is amazing how reticent we are to face this same reality even in terms of our bodily choices—freedoms with food, alcohol, exercise. And as difficult as it is for most of us to face up to this freedom to and freedom from where our bodily freedoms are concerned, it seems far more difficult for us to face up to this same reality where our spiritual, relational, mental/psychological, and ethical freedoms are concerned.
I can choose, for example, the freedom to engage in extra marital affairs and thus also choose the freedom from being faithful to my wife (license). I can freely choose to be faithful to my wife only due to my fear of the costs of being caught in my unfaithfulness, or only out of some sense of social obligation (law). Or, I can choose to be faithful in my relationship with my wife because I believe the freedom to grow that comes through being faithful to a commitment to love my wife through the ups and downs of a relationship are experiences more valuable, and more open to God’s blessings, than the experiences of either license or law. But, I am only free to choose one of these scenarios and the expanding freedoms that scenario leads toward. I cannot choose to experience both a lifetime of faithfulness to our covenant and the freedom to engage in affairs when I feel like it. The freedom to live one experience is also a decision to be free from the other experience.
Life is full of hurts. Even those who care most about us fail us, wound us, and hurt us. Not only our self-centeredness, but at some level even our God given hunger for justice, leads us to often want the freedom of “getting even.” The Biblical teaching that this freedom actually enslaves and imprisons us in a cycle of debt collections is very difficult to trust. So, it is not easy to believe that there is more freedom in “forgiving as you have been forgiven” even if we do pray those words regularly in the Lord’s Prayer. Almost daily, from the mundane being cut off in traffic, to the highway robbery of pensions by corporations and Wall Street tycoons, to the disappointment in relationships of love, we are free to choose between getting even and forgiving. And, each leads to other experiences and choices. What we are not free to do is experience our life both ways.
The same realities apply to the choices we can make about Worship or Serving. I can choose to show up for worship or ministry only if occasionally I feel like it. Or, I can show up, but have my heart and mind elsewhere (LICENSE). I can only stand or bow my head or sing because someone tells me to, and because I don’t want to look out of place (LAW). OR, I have the freedom to choose to experiment in a worship time with the opportunity to BE LOVED & TO EXPRESS LOVE toward God in the songs, prayers, teaching, people, announcements, visitors, etc (Covenant Love). But, choosing one freedom opens and limits what other freedoms I can choose during this time.
Here are four scriptures (out of many) that speak to this choice between “freedom from” and “freedom to”:
– Galatians 5:1, 13 points to freedom from license (doing whatever I want) and law to a freedom to love and serve one another without fear.
– Romans 8 points to freedom from condemnation and sin to a relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
– 1 Timothy 6 points to a freedom from lusting after more to the freedom of being content.
– 1 Timothy 4 points to a freedom from religious rules and fears to the freedom to be thankful.
Will you ask for these unique freedoms of the Holy Spirit? For yourself and for all of us?