Freedom can be hard to handle

On this fourth of July weekend, thinking about freedom…

We cherish freedom as a gift from God, but why is it that we have such a difficult time handling freedom when we have it?

A young man turns 21 and now has new freedom—legal rights that should be seen as privilege and honor—but he turns it into a spree of illegal and dangerous behavior.

A young man and woman get married, giving them an opportunity to flourish in a new God-given garden of responsibility and pleasure, but instead they begin a protracted battle just weeks after the blessed event, locked in a struggle for territorial power not essentially different than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A woman finally has the courage to leave a long-time abusive relationship, but instead of addressing the patterns in her life that lead her to seek out abuse, she falls into another relationship headed down the same path.

Why doesn’t freedom always work? Why can’t a tiger held in the captivity of a zoo be released into the wild to flourish among his wild-born cousins? Why is it likely that he’ll languish and die?

Here is an important distinction: Freedom is not just freedom from restraint; freedom is freedom to do what God has empowered you to do. The person who is released from prison may step out with a lightness in his step, gazing at the clear sky above and the distant horizon instead of concrete walls. He is free. Free from prison. But free to do what? The rate of recidivism among ex-convicts is as high as it is because many don’t know what to do except what they used to do. If the same thing happens to us spiritually, you can see what a disaster it will be. It isn’t enough for a person to find that Jesus Christ will forgive his or her sins and experience the broken chains that come with redemption; that is where grace begins, but hardly where it ends. God wants us not just to be redeemed from sin, but to be free to live good and healthy lives and to be agents of freeing others. God didn’t forgive us our sins so that we could go on sinning, but so that we could be free. First Peter 2:16 says, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

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