Freedom is greatly abused in our culture. Without a biblical basis for understanding freedom, we are finding that the more we cry for freedom, the less freedom we are experience as a culture. Jesus tells us, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” ( John 8:32). Later on in the same chapter (v 36) we read, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The truth that Jesus offers us will set us free. Of this freedom Paul exhorts us, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you” ( Gal 5:1 – Message). So indeed there is real freedom for us. But how do we experience and exercise freedom in a culture where freedom is so misunderstood and abused.
Os Guinness is a Christian sociologist who is very observant of our culture from a biblical point of view. Here are two observation he makes regarding freedom. “The greatest enemy of freedom is freedom. Freedom requires an order, or a framework, and the only appropriate framework for freedom is self-restraint, and yet self-restraint is precisely what freedom undermines when it flourishes.”
The second quote has to do with two types of freedom. “Negative freedom is freedom from – freedom from oppression, whether it’s a colonial power or addiction to alcohol oppressing you. You need to be freed from negative freedom. Positive freedom is freedom for, freedom to be. And that’s what’s routinely ignored today.”
Men, there are two observations that I want to make regarding Guinness’ comments on freedom. First the balance between freedom and self-restraint. In our present cultural environment there is hardly any emphasis on self-restraint. which is needed to preserve real freedom. Paul reminded the Galatians about the balance between the two. “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom” (Gal 5:13 – Message). Our restraint comes in our submission to the will of God.
The second comment bring into focus the emphasis in our culture of negative freedom. There is the cry to be freed from many things. But little is said about what we are freed for and what will this freedom produce in our lives. Paul reminds us that real freedom comes in giving ourselves to Christ. “You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one who commands set you free to live openly in his freedom” (Romans 6:16-18 – Message). Christ frees us to be who we were always truly meant to be. That is real freedom – freedom to be.