This past weekend we celebrated our 240th year of independence as a nation. America has been a shining light to the world for more than 2 centuries as we have pursued the experience of freedom. Although we haven’t always got it right we have steadily moved forward towards “liberty and justice for all”.
As we celebrate our freedom let me pose these questions. Is freedom without limits? If freedom has limits who gets to set them? If freedom has limits is that really freedom at all?
If you Google “freedom” we find the following…”the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” In this definition freedom is without “restraint”. Everyone doing anything and everything they desire. This is defined as freedom. One blogger recently wrote, To me, freedom is not only being free, but feeling free; to do, to say, to be, to literally (anything) – whatsoever and however, wherever and whenever. Because I am myself, and only I own me.
As I have pondered that thought I began to question if this is at all a possibility. Although no one wants to be that person who restricts another’s rights somewhere freedom must have a limit. Freedom without “restraint” is potentially a very dangerous thing.
All freedom comes with the responsibility of restraint.
There is no such thing as healthy unbridled freedom. Even in the perfect world after creation, God gave Adam and Eve the gift of free moral agency —the freedom of choice—but even then God gave them limits to their freedom.
The danger of freedom is unrestrained behavior. True freedom must involve both liberty and limits because freedom without restraint always leads to bondage.
Food without restraint… creates major health issues, Driving without restraint…kills people, Pleasure without restraint… creates laziness, Spending without restraint creates debt, Morality without restraint… breeds corruption, accumulating without restraint creates selfishness, and on and on freedom without restraint goes further into bondage.
Our first parents learned this early. As soon as they exercise freedom without restraint and eat that which they were free but forbidden to do, We then find them hiding from God, accusing one another, being kicked out of the garden, and suffering the consequences of their actions by witnessing their son murder his brother. Actually through their unrestrained freedom they entered into and brought all humanity into the greatest bondage of all…. SIN.
When freedom is exchanged for a license to do whatever you want apart from God’s laws of life, it becomes sinful tyranny in your life and in the lives of others.
Our founding fathers envisioned this idea of self-government, that within every American there would be a sense of moral understanding that would guide our behavior. They knew without this God-given moral self-governance it would be impossible to maintain our freedom. In his writing on the American freedom experiment the Frenchman Tocquevville pondered the need for moral restraint when he said, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” “When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint. It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. They neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
In America we cannot continue to exercise liberty without limits without the consequence of enslaving ourselves. Many a society in history has “freedomed,” their way into bondage.
As a nation, let us never forget that freedom is a gift from God that was given to us at a great cost. Millions of men and women have paid a dear price for our national freedom, we owe it to them to live within the moral restraints of our Maker so that we ensure their sacrifice was not in vain.
As individuals true freedom is found in the garden of God’s grace, in abiding in God’s presence and living again in a right relationship with our creator. The only access to this kind of freedom is found through Jesus who is able to set us “free indeed”. (Jn. 8:36)
May God grant us the grace to know true freedom, the wisdom to know where the limits on our freedoms lie, and the courage to live within the lines.