Freedom is priceless. Where it is present almost any kind of life is enjoyable. When it is absent life can never be enjoyed; it can only be endured.
Though millions have died in freedom's defense and though her praise is in everyone's mouth, yet she has been tragically misunderstood by her advocates and sorely wounded in the house of her friends. I think the difficulty lies with our failure to distinguish freedom from liberty, which are indeed sisters but not identical twins.
Freedom is liberty within bounds: liberty to obey holy laws, liberty to keep the commandments of Christ, to serve mankind, to develop to the full all the latent possibilities within our redeemed natures. True Christian liberty never sets us free to indulge our lusts or to follow our fallen impulses.
The desire for unqualified freedom caused the fall of lucifer and wrought the destruction of the angels that sinned. These sought freedom to do as they willed, and to get it they threw away the beautiful liberty that meant freedom to do the will of God. And the human race followed them in their tragic moral blunder.
To anyone who bothers to think a bit it should be evident that there is in the universe no such thing as absolute freedom. Only God is free. It is inherent in creaturehood that its freedom must be limited by the will of the Creator and the nature of the thing created. The glory of heaven lies in the character of the freedom enjoyed by those who dwell therein. That innumerable company of angels, the general assembly and Church of the First-born and the spirits of just men made perfect are at liberty secures for them an infinitely greater degree of happiness than unqualified freedom could do.
Unqualified freedom in any area of human life is deadly. In government it is anarchy, in domestic life free love and in religion antinomianism. The freest cells in the body are cancer cells, but they kill the organism where they grow. A healthy society requires that its members accept a limited freedom. Each must curtail his own liberty that all may be free, and this law runs throughout all of created universe, including the kingdom of God.
Too much liberty weakens whatever it touches. The corn of wheat can bring forth fruit only as it waives its freedom and surrenders itself to the laws of nature. The robin may fly about all summer enjoying her freedom, but if she wants a nest full of fledglings she must sit for weeks a voluntary captive while the mystery of life gestates beneath her soft feathers. She has her choice: be free and barren or curtail her freedom and bring forth young.
Every man in a free society must decide whether he will exploit his liberty or curtain it for intelligent and moral ends. He may take upon him the responsibility of a business and a family and thus be useful to the race, or he may shun all obligations and end on skid row. The tramp is freer than president or king, but his freedom is his undoing. While he lives he remains socially sterile and when he dies he leaves behind him nothing to make the world glad he lived.
The Christian cannot escape the peril of too much liberty. He is indeed free, but his very freedom may prove a source of real temptation to him. He is free from the chains of sin, free from the moral consequences of evil acts now forgiven, free from the curse of the law and the displeasure of God. Grace has opened the prison door for him, and like Barabbas of old he walks at liberty because Another died in his stead.
All this the instructed Christian knows and he refuses to let false teachers and misguided religionists rivet a yoke of bondage upon his neck. But now what shall he do with his freedom? Two possibilities offer themselves. He may accept his blood-won freedom as a cloak for the flesh, as the New Testament declares that some have done, or he may kneel like the camel to receive his voluntary burden. And what is this burden? The woes of his fellowmen which he must do what he can to assuage; the debt which he along with Paul owes to the lost world; the sound of hungry children crying in the night; the church in Babylonian captivity; the swift onrush of evil doctrines and the success of false prophets; the slow decay of the moral foundations of the so-called Christian nations, and whatever else demands self-sacrifice, cross-carrying, long prayer vigils and courageous witness to alleviate and correct.
Christianity is the religion of freedom and democracy is freedom in organized society, but if we continue to misunderstand this freedom we may soon have neither Christianity nor democracy. To protect political liberty free men must lay a voluntary obligation upon themselves, to preserve there religion of salvation by fee grace a great many Christians must waive their right to be free and take upon themselves a load greater than they have ever carried before.
When in danger the state can conscript men to fight for her freedom, but there are no conscripts in the army of the Lord. To bear a cross the Christian must take it up of his own free will. No authority can compel us to feed the hungry or evangelize the lost or pray for revival or sacrifice ourselves for Christ's sake and the sake of suffering humanity.
The ideal Christian is one who knows he is free to do as he will and wills to be a servant. This is the path Christ took; blessed is the man who follows Him.
~A. W. Tozer~