This is my fourth and final post on Freedom Matters. I figured it was time for me to step down off my soapbox before someone decided to push me off.
In these troubled times, I am mindful of something Lincoln said about liberty, “We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” That quote has prompted me to ponder its meaning. I always liked how Corrie Ten Boom, author of The Hiding Place, described freedom, “Freedom isn’t the right to do what we want, but the power to do what we ought.”
The late Bishop Fulton Sheen expanded on that same thought, “Freedom does not mean that right to do whatever we please, but rather to do as we ought. The right to do whatever we please reduces freedom to a physical power and forgets that freedom is a moral power.”
Freedom today is often spoken of in political or cultural terms. In this present moment, we seem obsessed with all the barriers to freedom and demanding that redemption only comes when all the responsible groups (like white American heterosexual males) are shamed into submission, and political, economic, and societal institutions are remade into the image of whoever is in power.
I do not deny the faults and sins of some of our corporate or national institutions. Nor do I ignore the urgent need for citizens to use the political process and the rule of law to protect individual freedoms.
But institutions don’t repent, individuals do.
Therefore, I propose that true redemption, true change, and real freedom must begin at the individual level. Otherwise, change occurs only through force, which ultimately leads to a loss of freedom in the form of totalitarianism.
Flashback: Remember my closing paragraph in Freedom Matters Part 3?
John Adams once said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
A corollary to that is this observation from an unknown author, “Without virtue, a society can only be ruled by fear.”
So, how do we discover freedom on an individual basis? An ancient mariner is quoted as saying, “He who is enslaved to the compass has the freedom of the seas!” With a compass, one knows the direction they are going. Without a compass, you are lost, aimless, and drifting, guided only by the fashionable currents of the day. You may consider a compass too restrictive, or just another dogmatic rule you must abide. Living life without a compass, your only goals are focused on doing whatever you want, whenever you want, and however you want. And those who do are then shocked when they hit a sandbar or end up in the wrong port.
With a compass, you know where true north is, you are able to navigate with ease, and consequently, you have the freedom of the vast and beautiful seas.
Ironic, isn’t it? That a mariner discovers the freedom of the seas only after being a slave to the compass.
So what is your compass?
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” I am in awe of that verse for it does not allow us to see Jesus as just a good man or a good teacher. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we have only three options. Either Jesus was a liar or a lunatic, or he is who he said he was — the Lord.
I know that’s not what some folks want to hear. Their compass is to follow their heart, follow their dreams, follow the latest hip guru, follow the latest fashion fad, follow their friends on Facebook…in other words, they want no limits, no restrictions…and no consequences.
Sorry, but life doesn’t work that way. Defining your own reality and following your self-centered heart has only one destination — sooner or later, you crash into a reality check when you hit the sandbar of despair, the iceberg of desperation, or the coral reef of hopelessness.
The only real Compass, is the Compass of Truth.
In John 8:31-32, Jesus said to his followers, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The only meaningful and lasting freedom is found in “The Truth.” For it is only in Him that we are truly free.
Note: Picture provided by Heidi Fin at unsplash.com