"Just leave me alone! Leave. Me. Alone!” came shouting and crying from the child thrown across the bed at the end of the hall. The wailing caused a pall to fall on the household as everyone else became silent and gave each other sidelong glances. It appeared the child would get their wish because no one else knew what to do but give in. This child wanted freedom from us, the parents. So be it.
In a short period of time, when no one ran to the bedroom to object to the request, the tantrum was over and the three-year-old emerged in a much calmer state.
Have you ever witnessed or been this child? The all-too-familiar scenario speaks volumes about human nature. How often do we also, as adults, fall prey to throwing the proverbial fit when we are too angry, tired, hungry or overwhelmed to deal with life? I know I have more often than I would care to admit.
Just leave me alone.
Like an out-of-control child, the natural self grabs for the freedom to be or do want it wants, when it wants it. Psychologists and academics call this type of freedom foolish freedom. Foolish freedom is a type of freedom that desires no boundaries. Without rules, this freedom often goes to an extreme and destroys its resources. As an example, think of a rock star smashing a guitar at a concert, because they can. It’s a desire that eventually implodes.
The twin to true freedom is responsibility. In a recent graduation speech, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of theUnited States, Clarence Thomas, spoke about our freedoms as citizens and the corresponding boundaries which make independence possible. Growing up on a farm he mentioned the obligation to take care of the land, to use it to produce food for their family and for others.
The apostle Paul talks about this type of freedom. Those who believe in Jesus have become truly free from the curse of sin and death. Believers have been redeemed by the atoning work of Jesus. In a sense he turned the freedom/responsibility upside down. God has let us off the responsibility of paying for our desire for a foolish freedom because we are not capable of paying for our sin and fulfilling his requirements to be perfect. We are born in sin. Instead, Jesus took the blame and paid by his death on the cross.
The astonishing act of making payment, and subsequently giving the gift of faith to all who believe, has set us free from that debt and replaced it with a debt of gratitude. All he asks is that we obey the Great Command, to serve others in love.
God the Father has made it possible for us to flee the path of being left alone to wallow in our guilt.
Jesus’ love has made it possible for us to be reunited with our perfect and just heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit has given us the capability to live the gospel out of thankfulness and joy.
We don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation, and at the same time we are free to do more and to be more because we can live out the freedoms won for us on the cross.
So in a sense, our freedom from sin has a built-in responsibility. It is the key to a happy life no matter what our circumstance. We can choose to live out of gratitude and love for the freedom God has granted us by following his directives in the Word.
Our freedom can be manifested in all kinds of ways.
As parents, we train our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We teach our children to serve each other out of love, even when they want to be left alone.
As family members, we bear with one another through the highs and lows of life. We support one another with encouraging words.
As friends, we listen to one another. We counsel each other to turn our desires for foolish freedom back to the freedom of living life in accordance with the Word of God.
Living in God’s type of freedom sounds easy as I sit at my computer and pen these words. However, dedicating our lives to preserving and passing on the Word of God and the truths therein is an uphill battle.
I ask myself, do I love my freedom in Christ enough to persevere?
Am I willing to be responsible in love even as the world around me crumbles into chaos and disorder?
Am I strong enough to stand up and shine when all around God’s people are encouraged to slip back into foolish freedom?
On our own, we are not able to do this. With God, all things are possible.
By grace, we can be truly free because we have been set free.