We Americans love our freedom, and we enjoy it to a degree experienced by few civilizations in history. We are free to believe what we want, say what we want, and write what we want. This is guaranteed to us in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. But no one (or almost no one) would say that our freedom should be limitless. I should not have the freedom to take something that belongs to someone else. I should not be free to kill whomever I please.
Most would say this is obvious. But why? Why shouldn’t people be able to steal and kill? Shouldn’t they be allowed to determine what they are free to do and not do? Who is going to tell people what they can and can’t do? Some respond that if one’s exercise of freedom infringes on another’s, then it should not be allowed. So a person is free to drink as much booze as he wants, but he is not free to get behind the wheel and endanger the lives of others on the road. Others argue that freedom should be limited even when another’s freedom is not threatened. They say that certain behaviors that do not directly harm others are still bad for society, like pornography and drug use.
God teaches that our freedom should be regulated by the law of love, love for Him and love for one another (Matthew 22:34-40). This is a challenge for us because our will is not perfect; it is not free. By nature, every human being is a slave to sin. The Apostle Paul writes: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, ESV).
Slavery to sin is life without love. It is a concern only for the desires and notions of oneself with little to no thought of others. And this is no slavery from which we can free ourselves. The chains of sin are wrapped tightly around us, and we are powerless to break them. The only One who could is the One who never sinned. Only the perfect Son of God taking on flesh could free humanity from its sin. He freely put Himself under the law to keep it in our place, and He freely went to the cross to pay for our sins.
Having freed us from our sins, God does not call us to exercise freedom without boundaries. He calls us to be slaves of righteousness. “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification”(Romans 6:19). In other words, Jesus did not free you from sin so that you would keep sinning. He freed you to love your neighbor, to show kindness, to sacrifice for others. You can do these things without restraint and without burden, knowing that all your failings, all your inadequacies, all your selfishness, are blotted out by the blood of Jesus.
Enjoy the freedoms you have in this great country of ours, but treasure still more the freedoms obtained for you by your Savior. The former are not guaranteed to last; the latter are.
– Rev. Peter Faugstad