“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)
The boundaries of God’s law are for our protection and flourishing. Not only do they enhance our freedom to explore life as God intended without fear, but they also keep us from straying too far into areas where we might hurt ourselves without realizing the danger. The fence around my yard keeps my youngest son out of the street, giving him the freedom to explore the yard and play in safety, and giving us freedom from fear when the boys go outside. Most people recognize the boundary of a fence as a good thing when it comes to protecting children, but it’s ironic that we often resent the fences God puts up to protect us, His children, as an infringement upon our personal autonomy, our freedom.
Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28, NIV). In an age when pornography is readily available on our phones (which is why I highly recommend Covenant Eyes to everyone), I find that many men are uncomfortable with unlocking their phone, sliding it across the table to their wives, and leaving the room. Women are often also uncomfortable giving their unlocked phones to their husbands. Husbands and wives alike reluctantly hand over their phones and leave the room, finding that their hearts are pounding, their hands are sweaty, and their minds are racing. Did I delete that web page? Did I clear my browsing history? What if he opens WhatsApp and sees what I’ve been messaging? Will she check my email? What about my Instagram?
When we exercise our personal autonomy by using our phones to look at or say inappropriate things, we actually lose freedom. We may think we’re free to do whatever we want on our phones, but we’ve actually put on the shackles of fear and anxiety should someone get ahold of our phones. And, when our spouse inevitably finds the garbage on the phone, we also lose the freedom to trust, which can destroy a marriage.
The point is, healthy boundaries can actually serve to increase our freedom. My kids are free to play in the yard because they submit to the boundary of the street. If they choose to exercise their personal autonomy by running into the street, they will lose the freedom to play outside. If we decide that we’re not going to look at or say anything on our phones we wouldn’t want our spouses to see, then we gain freedom from fear when our spouses pick up our phones, and we give them the freedom to trust us.
When I submit my personal autonomy to the boundaries of God’s perfect law, not only do I gain the freedom to be my true self, I also gain freedom from the power and penalty of sin, freedom to explore life as God intended without fear, freedom from wondering if I’ll ever be good enough to measure up, freedom from trying to prove myself or discover myself, or achieve self-actualization.
My prayer for the week is that God will show you what He’s given you freedom from, so that your heart is filled with joy in Christ.