Freedom

Freedom.
Freedom
We value freedom quite highly here in the States.  We make it one of our highest goals to obtain freedom for everyone.
Freedom is a noble and worthy goal, isn’t it?  It is a good that we as Christ-followers support, right?  Even Jesus, after all, speaks of setting us free.
Yes, however…
Many of us who have grown up in the States have become confused about what freedom means.  We think that freedom means living without limits, being able to make our own choices, casting off all restraint.
This is not freedom.  This is autonomy.  Autonomy is a very different thing.
So what is freedom?  In the world of Jesus, what does freedom mean?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about freedom in Creation and Fall, his commentary on the first few chapters of Genesis.  He speaks of us being created in the image of the Triune God says that one of the implications of this is that we are meant to be relational beings.  Being created as relational beings means that we are dependent.  Dependent on God and dependent on each other.
This freedom we are given by being made in God’s image is, Bonhoeffer says, “a relation and nothing else.  To be more precise, freedom is a relation between two persons.  Being free means ‘being-free-for-the-other’, because I am bound to the other.  Only by being in relation with the other am I free.”
Depending
Yes, we are free, but free within our relationships.  Yes, we are free, but it is a freedom with limits, a freedom with boundaries.  It is a freedom that only makes sense within the context of our relationships.

Helping

It is the sort of freedom that a cellist in an orchestra has.
A cellist who asserts her autonomy while playing a Rachmaninoff symphony will only cause sour notes and chaos.  A cellist who asserts her freedom within the confines of the orchestral relationships around her creates art and beauty.  She is free to bring out the best within herself only because she willingly submits herself to the limits of the piece and the limits placed by the conductor.

Freedom

Insisting on and clinging to our autonomy creates only sour notes and chaos.
Being set free, however, asserting our freedom for those around us…
This.
This gives beauty, peace, joy.  This kind of freedom is what brings out our best, most true selves.

Art credits: Bonhoeffer plaque from Wiki Commons; Cellist photo from Amanda Wen

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Comments

  1. Todd Daly says:

    Beautiful–the photos and illustrations only add to the poignancy.

    • Thank you! It’s one of the things I love about blogging…the ability to weave together words with visual (and sometimes aural) art to create something new.

  2. Thanks….Your thoughts are so authentic. I have pondered this thing called freedom, and how it becomes mangled in our world. Thanks.!
    Emily

    • It is a hard thing to figure out, for sure. I need wiser minds than my own for help, which is why I love reading the old classics. Thank you for your encouragement!

  3. Charles says:

    Let me begin by saying, another well written article and definitely something to think about. But, you know me by now and my buts or just the fact I am sitting in the hospital bored, according to the Webster Dictionary, Autonomy means “The sovereignty of reason in the sphere of morals; or man’s power, as possessed of reason, to give law to himself. In this, according to Kant, consist the true nature and only possible proof of liberty.” Also, according to the Webster Dictionary, Liberty’s definition is “The state of being free; exemption from the power and control of another; liberty; independence”. To me, autonomy and liberty are basically the same. Both set each individual free from oppression from anyone else. Of course, that was not my question. My question, or confusion is who decides what defines liberty or autonomy for that fact. Are we not expected to obey the laws set by man that has been defined by man. Now, I am taking God out of the equation here because we all know God’s word is all encompassing law (liberty, autonomy, etc.). As a simple example, it is against the law to go over 25 MPH in areas defined by man. Who gives this man (person) the right to decide the speed and/or the area? The same is true for all countries, thus the wars.Just curious (and I am beginning to confuse myself) so, I will quit now.

    • I think part of the trouble is that you are mixing up laws set by man with the idea of the sort of freedom that God (and we as created in His image) have. The sort of law you mention (the speed limit) is a result of the people of a civilization granting its government the right to set and define such laws. When I speak of freedom (and autonomy seems much more self-focused; freedom in God’s sense is defined by being other-focused), I am speaking of God’s kind of freedom which probably would not be defined as such in a Webster Dictionary, because the scope of such a dictionary is to define what words mean in a particular culture, place, and time rather than defining words that transcend any culture, place, or time. It is all very complicated and layered, and I probably just muddied up things rather than calmed them down.

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