People place a great deal of emphasis on freedom. We might could go as far as to call freedom an idol in our times. “I want to be free to do what I want to do” is the mantra of our time. But what is freedom?
Imagine a musician. The musician practices for hours and makes many sacrifices in order to play proficiently. If you witness a masterful performance, it seems as though the musician is truly free. The musician might know the instrument so well that he or she can improvise with ease. This seems like true freedom. But being able to freely play is only achieved through countless time spent doing the required hard work. The musician must stick to a confined schedule and make many sacrifices in order to play freely.
Imagine a fish. Perhaps someone might feel sorry for the poor fish confined to the pond. He wants the fish to be free, so he puts the fish in the grass. You know how this story ends. The fish was happy when it was confined to the pond. The fish experiences its best life in the water. A fish is far happier in a small body of water than it is in a large pasture. The fish must stay in the water, or, well, it’s a fish out of water. It does not have more freedom by being free from the pond.
Imagine driving a car. We ought to be very thankful for traffic laws. If you’ve ever driven in a place where there are no policed traffic laws, then you know how blessed we are to have guardrails and speed-limits. The law does not limit our freedom. The law enhances our freedom. We can only drive freely when we have laws which place confinements upon us.
Imagine being in a relationship with another person. Everybody must change a bit in order to experience a loving relationship. It’s just the way things are. A person might say, “This is how I am. This is how things will be. I’m not changing at all.” Well, that doesn’t sound like a relationship of much freedom for anybody involved. A healthy relationship where both people feel happy and free is actually a relationship where both people are making many sacrifices and giving up a part of their individuality for the sake of the other.
We could go on and on, but the point is, rules actually create a sense of freedom. People involved in child development will say that children do the best when rules are clearly in place. If there is unlimited freedom with no restraints, the child does not feel safe and secure.
Now, let’s return to our spiritual lives. Some people are uncomfortable talking about limits, laws, or rules in relation to our faith. There is a false notion that Christ has set us free to live a life of no restraint. But this isn’t what grace is. God’s grace is seen in that while I was floundering around on the grass, gasping for breath, Christ placed me in the confines of a small fishbowl. God has given us limits and guardrails. God’s way sets us free. The truth is, we are never more free than when we are living as slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18).