Freedom. There's a lot of talk around today about freedom. What do you and I have rights to? What are reasonable limits to absolute release from any constraints—what we call "license”. When are we no longer "free" if the power to do anything we want in a moment is limited? But then, at what point does license end up imploding, allowing a kind of free "war of all against all" until no one is free except the most powerful, most forceful, and most mighty? How does freedom interact with vulnerability, stewardship, service, mutual submission? How do we hold the tension between freedom and surrender, or obedience, or sacrifice for another in the different parts of our lives—in marriage, in family, at work, in church?
Christian faith has never equated freedom with release from constraint. It just hasn't. It’s equated freedom with power, given by God, to live vulnerably, acknowledge our fragility, and accept our responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are intertwined in Christian thinking. The extent to which we lose that connection we lose any credible Christian way to think and talk about freedom.
To whom outside ourselves are we responsible? What conditions of life, society, church, and such are needed to allow us to meet those responsibilities? What freedoms do we claim, as a right, to allow us to be responsible people? What freedoms do we build, by building just and fair institutions that allow people to become responsible citizens? What freedoms do we give, by forgiving, waiting, encouraging, and letting others take responsibility in their own lives in their own imperfect ways? How free are we to freely limit our own freedom, so we can be more than isolated and self-interested?
Christians find freedom in Christ, we say. And we say this not because being a Christian allows us to demand license or permission or liberty from others. We say this because in prayer, with other believers, and through embracing a faith-filled view of life we can find courage to give up some claims to personal liberty in order to accept the claims on us that responsible living brings. And that's real, happy, life-giving freedom.
The next time someone says to you, "That's a threat to my freedom!" ask them what they mean by that. Ask them to wonder with you what they're responsible to and for, and how they can find freedom in being responsible. And wonder about it yourself, if you dare.
And when what's outside is more powerful than you like, limiting your possibilities, can you find freedom to choose freedom still? Can you be free inside, in your spirit, to stay connected and responsible to God—and so to Love—even in your weakness? Of course you can. It's not always easy. But neither is slavery. God gave us a freedom that can't be sequestered. And that's the freedom we should claim. Don't you think?
For freedom we were made, so that we might in fact be whole, connected, responsible, and so truly free! Even liberated. Even when we feel weak.