“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Gal 5:16)
Why has Christ set us free? For freedom. Think about that; parse it. Christ did not set us free for some other reason and we got freedom as a bonus or side effect. No, it sounds like Jesus regards freedom as valuable for its own sake. And unless we think Jesus is wasting His time, He has set us free because freedom is worth it. That leads, naturally, to the question: what is freedom? What is this thing that led Christ to set us free?
Merriam-Webster’s offers, in part, that freedom involves “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action”. But what gives us freedom of choice? What gives us freedom of action? If I make choices that addict me to something — that make me unable, psychologically or bio-chemically, from choosing differently in the future — then I am no longer free. Choice itself is not freedom, because some choices lead to internal coercion or constraint. If I choose to addict myself to drugs or pornography or gambling or drink, then I’m not making a “free” choice — a choice conducive to my freedom. I’m making a slave’s choice. I may make the choice without constraint; I may have society’s license to make it, but I am not increasing or even sustaining my freedom.
If I make choices that restrict my freedom of action – that make me unable, physically, to act in the future — then I am no longer free. I am able to make the choice to rob a bank. But is that a “free” choice? I have license to make that choice, by having my own will. But it is neither free of cost, free of counter-argument, or conducive to my future freedom. It is the choice of a man soon to be very much less free.
Merriam-Webster’s continues that it is “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.” This enlightens a little more. It is liberation from slavery. Liberation is not a momentary state. One who is liberated for a moment only is not liberated at all. Freedom, then, involves choices that make me free, that keep me free.
Freedom is not license, then. It is, confoundingly, a series of acts of restraint. It is constraining myself against what will constrain me. It cannot be a release from all control but must be a keeping away from the wrong control. One’s freedom — physically, politically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually — must, then, be guarded.
Independence (what the devil offered Adam and Eve) is not freedom. The mouse is “free” to wander or walk into the trap, but he is never free to leave.
(We’ll continue next time, when St. Kolbe will shed light on gaining and maintaining freedom.)
Copyright 2017, Joe Wetterling