By Sam Manchester
The word 'free' might conjure up in one's mind images of a bird being released from a cage, or a person leaving a prison.
You are free to go, free as a bird.
Of course, it is absolutely true that freedom involves the removal of oppressive constraints.
But if you thought it included the removal of all constraints you'd be overstating the point.
A bird doesn't belong in a cage, it was made to fly; but when it is released it doesn't suddenly become free to be whatever it wants.
A bird is free when it is most like a bird, when it has no constraints that stop it from flying, singing, making nests, and whatever else coheres with its nature. The bird is not oppressed because it cannot choose to be a lizard, but in its 'birdness' it is fully free.
The same is true of human freedom. Few would want to live in a society where there are no laws—that would be anarchy.
It is the very presence of laws that afford us the freedom to work a job without fear of exploitation, or have surgery with confidence of safe practice, or even walk the street at night with some assurance of security.
These terrible things do happen, but that says more about the human condition than anything else. The principle stands that the presence of the right limits enable true freedom for living and human flourishing.
Commonly people baulk at the Christian belief that sex should be enjoyed within marriage and not outside. It is such an outdated and prudish concept – how can anyone in the 21st Century take that teaching or belief system seriously?
And yet with such a 'restriction' in place we would find ourselves in a society that did not bear the scars of adultery, prostitution, pornography, STDs, unwanted teen pregnancies, child sexual abuse, and the vast majority of rape cases. Not to mention the benefits to married couples and families.
Of course not all sexual experiences outside of marriage contribute to these problems, but the simple point remains such a restriction can have positive effects on the experience of many and the good of society.
The liberty of true freedom
Yet even this is still not quite the point. Jesus did not come to give restrictive rules. He did, however, come to give very good rules that make some sense when you sit and think about them for a while.
The heart of it all is that Jesus came to reveal God to us, to show the world both the severe and everlasting danger of ignoring God, and the freedom from His good parameters for life.
Christians, it turns out, are not people who enjoy being especially moral. But they are people who know that for all their intelligence and finesse, their pursuit of a freedom-from-all-restraints has left them without some of the things that make them most human, and has restricted them in new and unexpected ways.
Christians are people who know that they need God's forgiveness for all their attempts at makeshift freedom, and who then choose to walk in the goodness and liberty of our humanness in the way God has designed it.•