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When Freedom Is Captivity
January 31, 2013
It is the theme of so many movies, so many novels, so many classroom presentations and political discourses: Freedom comes in pursuing your deepest desires, whatever those desires may be. Be true to yourself, be unashamed in who you are, and you will find joy and fulfillment.
Not too long ago I read the bestselling book Anticancer, written by David Servan-Schreiber. In this book he talks about the importance of a healthy immune system for battling against disease and lists several factors that may cause an immune system to decrease rather than strengthen. One of those factors, he insists, is denying or ignoring one’s natural homosexuality. If you are homosexual, the best thing for your body and soul is to pursue your homosexuality. True freedom, he implies, freedom of both body and spirit, will be found in pursuing homosexuality; captivity will come by ignoring what he believes to be natural and good.
And yet the Bible tells us a very different story. True freedom, the Bible insists, comes when we obey God. We do not find freedom outside of the revealed will of God but within it. It is within the boundaries he gives us that we find freedom and joy and fulfillment. What looks like captivity is freedom, and what looks like freedom is captivity. We are terrible assessors of what brings the truest joy. It is a daily battle to take God at his word.
Think of a child who is told by his parents not to touch the glass in front of the fireplace. He finds freedom in obeying the boundaries his parents set for him and he ignores those boundaries at his own peril. His parents are not being arbitrary or cruel. Rather, they are using their superior knowledge and their love for him to tell him what is in his own best interests. Their love for him compels them to create rules, to create boundaries.
Similarly, God gives us boundaries and he does so out of love and mercy. He tells us that we will find joy and freedom not outside of such boundaries but within them. Within the limits he gives us, we are able to find much greater joy and pleasure and fulfillment. Adam and Eve, living within the simple boundary God gave them (do not eat the fruit of that one tree) were able to live a sinless existence fully in the presence of God. But they were also able to choose not to obey and as soon as they did that, they found that their disobedience made them slaves. No longer free to serve God in every moment of every day, they became slaves to their sinful natures. The promise of freedom brought them only the pain of captivity.
It is just so much better to take God at his word and to live within the boundaries he gives us! As Christians we have the promised Holy Spirit who works in and through and with us to deliver us from sin. As we put away what formerly delighted us, we find a whole new kind of freedom in obeying God. We find that he becomes our delight and that we find great joy in living in obedience to him. And he grants us the freedom to be free—free from sin, freedom from our enslavement to it, freedom to see what is truly delightful.
No sin is worth the captivity it brings us. Sin enslaves, but God delivers. We find our freedom not apart from him and the boundaries he gives us, but with him and within those boundaries he has graciously given to us. Here is true fulfillment and true freedom.