I thought for a long time about how I was going to use some situation from my everyday life to make a nice anecdotal segue into the topic of this blog post, but I’m drawing a blank- basically, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of freedom, and as I look around UNC’s campus, I see a lot of people with a lot of different ideas about what freedom really is.
A good number of those people would tell me that my faith takes away all of the freedom that I was meant to have.
In fact, I’ve had someone tell me before that there’s no way God could love the same people that he traps in a “cage” of rules and standards. But obviously, I don’t believe that God doesn’t love us or that he traps us into a corner to push His own agenda; and you can consider this my unashamed attempt to restore a (biblical) cliche’s authenticity, because here’s the real deal: every command that we obey in honor of God was put in place to guard our hearts.
I know what it’s like to feel like I’m watching the world from inside of a cage, because I spent most of my high school days feeling like everyone who didn’t feel compelled to live by any given moral code got to enjoy life without any restraint. While I couldn’t even fathom a lifestyle where I just threw in the towel and lived by my own made-up doctrine, I also became exhausted with following rules. A lot of my peers (that were also Christians) would tell me that they could justify their wrongdoings because they knew that God would forgive them- and if God was going to forgive them anyway, why not do it? For a long time, I struggled with how it was fair that I felt so bound to a moral code despite the fact that others could break it and still be just as loved by God.
It wasn’t until I came to college and started learning more about the gospel that I realized it’s not about a moral code. And it’s not about rules. And that supposed “cage” that I lived in? It’s not real. Because the sad reality is that I wasn’t refraining from any activity in an effort to honor God, but rather to honor myself – to maintain my reputation, to keep my pride, to fuel self-righteousness. The problem with that is that my heart was just as tarnished and unfulfilled as the people who used drinking, partying, and sex to maintain their reputations, to keep their pride, to fuel their self-righteousness. In some senses, it’s all the same- none of it fills a heart that God was meant to have.
Here’s the thing about the world’s version of freedom- it leaves us broken, and not just in the sense that it separates us from God. I’ve acted against my moral convictions enough times to know that there are real-life implications to the decisions we make apart from the commands of God- deep guilt, overwhelming anxiety, broken hearts, and ultimately, regret for the things we’ve done- all in the pursuit of “freedom.”
You can take it from a heart that’s felt all of those things before- it’s a lot better to let God take hold of all of that sin. And I believe that when we think of freedom and what it means for our lives, our greatest expectation and hope is that it marks the absence of all of those “real-life implications” that I mentioned earlier. The most genuine argument I can provide for why there’s freedom in obeying the commands of God is my own experience- it’s only when I realized that God wants my heart that everything else fell into place. It doesn’t mean that life’s perfect, but it does mean that I don’t feel burdened by rules, and I most definitely don’t feel entrapped by them.
I think real, true, genuine Christianity requires you to grow up. I think all in the moment that you’ve accepted Christ, you’ve gained enough pride to realize that your life is worth so much more than what this world tells you and at the exact same time, you’ve been humbled so much that you have no choice but to fall to your knees before the One who gave it all. And it’s in that very same moment- when you realize that this is completely outside of the realm of anything you could do for yourself, when you realize that you meant so much to your creator that He died just to know you- in that moment, you become free.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”