By Sam Manchester
When you hear the word 'free' the image that comes to your mind is probably some variation 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.
However, if you think it includes 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 holds together 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. Almost no one wants 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 you won't be murdered for no reason.
Of course, 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 laugh 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 It is such an outdated and prudish concept, how can anyone in the 21st Century take that teaching or belief system seriously?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 actually 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, yet the simple point can be seen that such a restriction can in fact have great positive benefits for 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, but He did 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 in 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.•