On this day that we celebrate our country’s independence from England, it’s good to reflect upon what freedom really is. There are lots of different definitions and lots of ways in which we can fall off the other side of the horse in our tireless pursuit of this thing.
We tend to desire freedom from and freedom toward.
We desire freedom from oppression, tyranny, taxes. We Americans have fought to free others even from these things so strongly is our natural bent away from a strong hand ruling over us. Half of Americans think that taxes are oppressive and half think that controlled borders are tyranny. We cannot agree on what we want to be free from but we always are aware that something “out there” is infringing on us.
We desire freedom toward things. We want to speak freely, have unlimited self-expression, movement, speech, actions. We want to do what we want and when we want it. Half of us think that having an abortion is freedom and the other half think that the freedom of the child is at stake. He wants to spray paint his initials on my building in order to express himself. I want my building clean and that’s how I express myself. We cannot agree on what we want to be free to but we all have something we want and it seems like someone “out there” is denying it to us.
Those in our society who pursue freedom as a vocation soon find themselves enslaved to their vices and devolve into cycles of destruction that ultimately lead to their demise. The proverbs are full of admonitions to essentially rule over yourself. Denial and hard work and dedication to a task are ways in which we “enslave” ourselves, forcing ourselves to do things we in our weak moments do not want to do.
But being our own master is a good way to keep from being someone else’s slave. This is what the foolish never grasp. But the road less travelled is usually less travelled for a reason. It’s difficult to be our own master, to take control of our emotions, of our desires, our basest instincts. Denying ourselves leads to happiness while indulging our every whim leads to despair. It’s a curious thing.
Of course we are quite poor at denying ourselves and so true freedom eludes us. We can’t ever seem to get rid of those things we think are oppressing us or gain all the things that we want that others seem to be denying us.
Thankfully, as Christians we are promised as Christians that one of the blessings will be an increase in our sanctification. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are becoming more Christ-like every day.
Whereas before we were reborn we were not able not to sin (non posse non picare), now we are actually able not to sin (posse non picare) and someday when we die we’ll achieve true and permanent freedom in our glorification and be unable to sin (non posse picare).
That’s what true freedom is. Freedom from sin. Freedom to holiness. In Christ, any slave can be free, any captive can have their spirit soar, the paralytic can truly fly. The earthly circumstances of the Christian will never accurately reveal the life that is unfolding and blossoming within us.
We all want freedom. Most of what we want is temporal and too often it is even bad for us. But true freedom, freedom from sin and freedom in Christ, gives us true joy and is worth celebrating every day of the year.