How free do you feel? We live in the good ol' USA, the “land of the free.” We have constitutional freedoms. We talk about being debt free, worry free, free from temptation, free to be me, free to live my life. We like free stuff - a free lunch, a free ride, free samples, free range chicken. Some free stuff we don’t like - freeloaders, free advice, free-form poetry (well, I don’t like it). But how free are we really? Talk to an Anarchist, and they will say we are not free in the least, but we are held down by the restraints of the law. Ask a 13 year old, and they will tell you that they aren’t free because of their repressive parents always telling them what they can’t do. I doubt that anyone wants, REALLY wants, absolute freedom. Freedom from authority, government, society, parents, or God. For example, people complain about taxes - “It’s my money and I should be FREE to do what I want with it!” they might say - but they enjoy the paved roads they drive on, and the protection of the police and fire services, and they benefit, either directly or indirectly, from the hospitals and schools that their taxes pay for. Some people who think they want absolute freedom probably still want some rules for, say, driving (stop signs, traffic signals, everyone driving on the right side of the road).
People often struggle to be free from the very things that keep them safe and happy. Since the beginning of human existence, we see this play out time and time again. My sons, each in their own way, express their desire for freedom. They might have money, but I won’t let them spend it on things that I know they don’t really want (or won't want in 10 minutes). As parents, we balance the giving of freedom with ability to make good decisions, which, in reality, is not true freedom. But do any of us have true freedom? We are bound to earth, we are not free from gravity. We need to eat, we are not free from our need for sustenance. None of us will live forever, we are not free from aging or physical death.
Still, we struggle to be free from God. Free from the rules that we perceive he has bound us with. Free from the obligation to acknowledge him as our provider. But, like a stray dog, freedom from our protector and provider comes at a steep price. This recently found freedom affords us hunger and thirst, fear and vulnerability. We trade the external restraints for internal restraints. Under authority, we have the freedom that the authority provides. God offers us true freedom, but only inside his kingdom. Similarly, my own children, under my authority, have the freedom to be kids, and grow up in a safe environment.
So, how free do you feel? I’ve met some people who are free from authority, but do not experience any freedom. We can kick against reality, but that does not make it any less true. The truth is that the only thing preventing us from experiencing the freedom that Jesus offered - God’s kingdom of love, peace, well-being and contentment - is our misplaced desire for this stray dog freedom. In reality, we choose on a moment-by-moment basis, whether or not to live in peace. It’s not a matter of choosing freedom over authority, it’s a matter of what kind of freedom you desire.