“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25, NIV)
Hold on a minute. Does James 1:25 really say that the law gives freedom? Impossible! Isn’t freedom the absence of law, rules, and authority? Isn’t freedom being able to anything I feel like doing, whenever I feel like doing it? If I have to submit to the law, doesn’t that infringe upon my freedom?
In America, the Land of the Free, we ironically have a somewhat limited view of freedom. Over the years, we’ve come to define freedom as personal autonomy, my right to rule me and make my own decisions. In other words, I get to do anything I want, as long as it makes me happy and doesn’t hurt someone else–that’s freedom. Actually, that’s personal autonomy, which is a type of freedom; but it’s not the only type of freedom, nor is it even the highest type of freedom.
The greatest freedom is the freedom described in James 1:25. J. P. Moreland, in his book Kingdom Triangle, defines it as the ability and opportunity to do what is right. I might add to that definition the ability and opportunity to be who God created and called you to be. This kind of freedom is much higher and nobler than mere personal autonomy. But it requires submission to God’s law. Let me try to illustrate this.
Suppose I want to be a great pianist, like Franz Liszt (my favorite classical pianist). I have to submit my personal autonomy to the law of practice. Sometimes while my friends are outside running around free, I have to be inside and practice piano. But, as the years go by and my skill increases, I discover a new kind of freedom: the freedom to sit down at a piano any time I want and play the most beautiful music. The same principle holds true for sports, the greatest players are the ones who submit their personal autonomy to the law of practice and gain the freedom to be the best.
Actually, this principle applies to just about everything in life, including God’s law. If I want to become the person God created and called me to be, I must submit my personal autonomy to God’s Word. I must give up living for myself, and start living for God. Only then will I find the power and opportunity and direction to be the very best version of myself, the version God had in mind when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. It may sometimes come at the cost of a fraction of my personal autonomy, but what I gain in its place is much richer, it is true freedom.
My prayer for the week is that God will whisper to your heart who He’s created and called you to be.