Freedom is tremendously important to us Americans.
We live for freedom, fight for freedom, die for freedom.
We want the freedom to do what we want, be what we want, have what we want.
Freedom is tremendously important to us Christians as well.
Yet…is this the same sort of freedom? Is the freedom lauded by our culture the same freedom valued by our Christ?
We often seem to tangle them all up together, believing that in fighting for freedom for Americans (or, in our more altruistic moments, for people in other cultures as well) we are also fighting for the kind of freedom we are gifted in Christ.
This is a dangerous entanglement to make. The two are not at all the same, and in the erroneous belief that we are fighting for something valued by God we often do more harm than good.
The freedom that we Americans value is the freedom to choose. More than that, freedom is the expansion of choice.
The freedom granted to us by God, however, is the freedom to choose the good. It is the freedom to flourish as humans, to become the sort of creature we were created to be by a wise, loving, and good Creator.
Freedom is the ability to choose to love God – free from love of the created thing, from being enslaved to the material, from fear of losing. ~ Thomas Merton
The freedom of our culture is the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, regardless of the consequences.
It is like a train weary of running along the tracks, longing to be free to speed through open fields of wildflowers. The moment that train leaves its tracks, it is, I suppose, free – free to be a complete wreck.
The freedom of Christ is the freedom to choose discipline and self-control, the ability to be changed by the work of the Spirit in cooperation with our own choices into the image of Jesus.
Take music as an example.
The world’s freedom tells me that I can be a pianist any time I like. I have the freedom to sit down at a piano, to be free of any kind of training or practice, and press the keys in whatever way I desire. The world would tell me that I am making beautiful music.
Yet no one would sit and listen to my concert for long.
The freedom that God offers, however, gives me the freedom to choose training and discipline, hours and months and years of practice, following the rules of music theory as I learn to play in the way the Master desires. This is the music that brings people to their feet in wild applause.
The truth shall set you free is not the kind of freedom that is valued by our culture. Truth has a way of narrowing, not expanding our choices.
You are certainly free to choose which version of freedom you fight for: the American version that offers ever-increasing choices until we are left with nothing by which to delineate among our options, or the version offered by Christianity that illuminates the path leading to human flourishing and perfection.
Just do not confuse the one with the other.
It could lead to some truly frightful music.
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Credit: storybook page taken from the children’s book Tootle