Have you ever tried to play a team sport without first learning the rules? The fun of the game is lost because of the chaos that ensues. Fun and joy is only restored when everyone learns the rules of the game and abides by them. Similarly, joy in this life is experienced most when we abide by the boundaries that God has set for us. So, what is the difference between freedom as God promises and the freedom the world preaches?
Freedom of speech, freedom of gender, freedom of everything! Contemporary social movements attract many followers by professing to stand for ‘freedom’. However, today’s cultural ‘freedom’ is better understood as autonomy — the freedom to do whatever you want. But don’t get confused; the freedom to do something does not mean we are free from the consequences of that choice. Every decision we make binds us to a certain consequence. Unfortunately, this autonomy that the world desires does not give true freedom, but merely traps us in a pit of bad choices and consequences.
Imagine a sheep and a shepherd. The shepherd, knowing that the sheep tends to wander, builds a fence around the sheep, only letting it out to graze. Sure, the sheep is no longer free to go wherever it wants, whenever it wants, but it sure is free from the consequences of poor choices, such as facing a wolf alone or running off a cliff.
We are like the sheep and God is like the loving shepherd. Without the fence, we naturally and easily wander into the traps and dangers of sin. While the rules He gives us to live by in the Bible may seem to restrict a person’s ‘freedom’, they in fact free us from the consequences of sinful behaviour. If we don’t live within the boundaries of those rules, then we have to accept the consequences of exercising our ‘freedom’ — and often end up hurting ourselves (and others!) through our sinfulness.
Jesus never said that we could do whatever we wanted if we chose to follow Him. Instead, He commanded us to deny ourselves and obey His commands (Matt 16:24; 28:20). Paradoxically, true freedom is only experienced when we bind ourselves to Christ in obedience. If we humble ourselves and live by His words, we immediately position ourselves to live a life of true freedom, just as the Bible promises (John 8:31–32).
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Rom 6:22).