It is ironic that Christianity, which historically has been a forerunner of personal freedom, political freedom, economic freedom and religious freedom, is commonly seen as the enemy of freedom. Many …
It is ironic that Christianity, which historically has been a forerunner of personal freedom, political freedom, economic freedom and religious freedom, is commonly seen as the enemy of freedom. Many believe that Christianity unnecessarily limits personal liberty by being restrictive, narrow, and confining because they consider that unrestrained freedom to be what we need to flourish and thrive.
But there has been a drastic change in how our society understands freedom. When our forefathers spoke of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they meant the ability to pursue a virtuous life. That is, they thought that the best, most satisfying life resulted from the pursuit of virtues. In other words, the concept of freedom entailed moral content and definition. But that is not the common understanding of freedom today. Today, the understanding of freedom has changed to mean “the ability to do whatever I want.”
But here’s the question: Does “whatever-I-want-freedom” lead to true happiness? You might be surprised by the answer.
Now, one thing is clear: Every person should have the ability to decide how they want to live and what they want to believe. Coercion of belief is not a good thing. Amazingly, God gives us all the ability to choose, even if it is against his desires and our design.
But that does not mean that “whatever-I-want-freedom” leads to true happiness, for a number of reasons. First, the purpose for which we were created means that we must have some limitations.
Tim Keller, in his book “The Reason for God,” explains that all of us are bound to some degree by our make-up and purpose. For instance, even though I (David) may be free to aspire to be an NFL lineman, pursuing that career will not bring me happiness, but severe pain! I am too small, too slow, and too weak to thrive in that field!
We see the same thing in the animal world. If a camel were to wander north into the arctic regions, it would die because it has not been designed to live in such place.
The same is true for us. Humans, including you, are not designed for “whatever-I-want-freedom,” but for a particular kind of life, the kind of life that Jesus calls us to.
But there is another reason why “whatever-I-want-freedom” does not lead to our happiness. Many of the desires that we have will actually enslave us if left unchecked. This explains the rise of various addictions in recent years. If a drug-addict is allowed unbridled freedom to get high, he or she will be enslaved to this behavior, and it will ruin their life. Or, if someone comes into a lot of money, unrestricted love for material goods and pleasures will ruin their life. We are simply not designed for unrestrained freedom.
If “whatever-I-want-freedom” is not the key to true happiness, then what is? True happiness doesn’t come from things or unbridled freedom. It comes from living according to the purpose for which you were created. Being made in the image of God, you were designed to be in relationship with him.
The Bible says that true happiness and flourishing can only be found in a relationship with God, and that is why Jesus Christ came into this world. He modeled perfectly how we are to live, and then died on the cross to truly set us free from our sin and give us new life. Jesus said that in following him, we will know the truth, the truth will set us free, and we will be truly free.
So what kind of freedom do you want?
(David Pool is the pastor of Grace Point in Powell.)