William Penn once wrote, “Liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.” I have been thinking about that quote a little bit more lately. It seems to be incredibly applicable to the Christian life. He wrote it after going through a difficult period of setting up a colony in Pennsylvania that was meant to be a haven for various groups who thought differently form the church. What resulted was an ugly situation of persecution by the groups form each other. They had experienced freedom, and chose to abuse that freedom and power.
I often wonder just how much of history we repeat at times. Israel had a tendency to repeat its mistakes, and this quote actually summarizes their problems very well. They were given freedom from Egypt, and called to obedience by God. They wanted to keep the freedom, but would repeatedly ignore the obedience part. It would often lead to loss of life, land, and eventually liberty.
People often look at Christianity as a religion defined by what we are not supposed to do. It is looked at as constraining to living a full life. Christians seem to be missing out on all the world has to offer. I can understand the confusion. There are even many Christian who act as though their religion is just a bunch of rules. It can get confusing.
What is freedom? That is the real question to ask. Is true freedom the ability to do whatever you want, or is it the opportunity to live a truly better life. We mix up the two. We think the best life is being able to do whatever we want. I think back to some of those sitcoms where the parents choose to teach their young child a lesson in responsibility. They let the child do whatever they want for a few days, and the result is inevitably disastrous for the child.
Sin keeps us from living the best life possible. It prevents us from living a life that has a relationship with God as the foundation. It destroys relationships, and creates chaos around every corner. God created an opportunity to live in liberty from sin, but it is not a forced kind. We need to make that choice. We need to choose the act of obedience. Take the choice away and we do not have any type of real liberty.
This is where the confusion really comes in. Making this choice does not open up the door for complete and total freedom in everything. We have chosen to serve a new master who has now provided the best life possible, but that choice requires obedience. Before this choice we are enslaved to sin. The liberty this choice provides is freedom from that previous master, and the promise of a full life that is actually worth living
complete freedom that lacks any responsibility and control can be devastating. The boundaries exist for a reason. They are not the defining attributes to what Christianity is, but they are the markers along the road that keep us on the correct path to our destination. They put us into focus on what we are really about. Caring for the poor, meeting the needs of those around us, spreading compassion and love to those in need, speaking boldly for truth, defending the weak, spreading the Gospel, and proclaiming to the world what god has done.