When I was a lad, I was generally considered to be an even-keeled, well behaved young man. But the truth is that I, even I, pondered such questions as, “Why be good?” and, “Why be responsible?” It seemed to me during those times responsibility was a trap: by exercising responsibility, I only set myself up for more responsibility, which, if exercised, led surely to yet more. And at each turn, when confronted with the choice to be responsible, or to do the irresponsible thing, the choice was not really a choice at all. Irresponsibility had its consequences, and responsibility had its…consequences.
So what is the point of this vaunted freedom which the Apostle Paul proclaimed that we, as believers in Christ, have? Did the devil’s track actually preserve my freedom to choose better than the straight and narrow? Because surely, if I leaned toward irresponsibility, the responsible choice was always there for me, should I want to take it. But if I stuck to the responsible path, I’d never have any fun!
Paul wrote a very succinct answer to this quandary in a letter to the church in Galatia. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” How cryptic. How circular. What a tease. What does it mean?
When an individual is given liberty to make choices, logically, he may make any choice he wishes. However, the best choice is always one which preserves and secures the freedom to make future choices. Let’s try on an example. As a Christian man, am I free to use heroin? Obviously, if I am free, then I must have perfect liberty to do so. However, this statement is true only the limited sense in which we might say, “I am perfectly free to surrender my freedom.” If I use my freedom to walk voluntarily into a prison cell whose jailer is my sworn enemy, then the moment the door clangs behind me, all proclamations about my freedom become hopelessly academic. By the same token, when I hear, “run for it, or be imprisoned by your enemy!” I would be a fool to stand still and dither about whether I really had any choice in the matter or not.
So does the exercise of freedom in the pursuit or protection of freedom constitute freedom at all? Of course it does. The reason is that not every choice is a choice between good and evil. There is also unwise vs. wise. And beyond that there is good vs better vs best. And finally, there is “What do you want to do today?”
Drug addicted deadbeats are seldom confronted with a choice between graduate schools. The ones who do face such choices are those who have consistently made decisions to study while others play, to persist when others give up, to take the hard road when others seek the easy way out. And one day, after all those responsible choices, the graduate finds himself in a test with no wrong answers, lying flat on his back 2 feet from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, trying to decide what color to paint with next.
Heaven is full of choices between colors. Heaven has a super abundance of the very sort of choice which the devil claims he can give us right now. But “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. . Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” –Galations 5:1
See also When Heaven Freezes Over