The Law That Gives Freedom

by Scarlett Stough

Most of us are accepting of and grateful for our traffic signs and signals here in the USA. We stop willingly on a red light, waiting for the green signal to continue our journey. The fact that most other people also follow those signals and commonsense rules of the road gives us a freedom to travel the roads with some degree of safety. True, they aren't foolproof, because drivers can get distracted, or angry, or they just plain foolishly ignore the rules, causing accidents which kill or injure.

When it comes to God's instructions, they are referred to as “the perfect law that gives freedom” (James 1:25). Again, when these laws are followed, we are able to travel the road of life with some degree of safety from the consequences of breaking those laws. As when traffic laws are broken, the innocent often suffer the consequences of the wrongdoing of others.

Let's take a look at the commandment against stealing another's possessions. Identity theft has been a huge long term disaster for some people suffering the consequences of another's guilty actions. Their freedom has been stolen preventing them from moving through society, buying, selling, renting, or traveling.

Freedom carries responsibility, not only for our own actions, but also for the welfare of other people. Freedom carries accountability. Civil laws bring the lawbreaker into courts and then curtail their freedom. Often, even when the sentence is served, their freedom to do and go where they want is gone for good.

God holds his people accountable for our actions: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

Teachers “will be judged more strictly” according to James in chapter 3:1. Jesus warned, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). This is a warning everyone who attempts to pass on the truth of Scripture should take very seriously.

What about the verses that tell us (and rightly so) “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1? Everybody sins in word and in action, but there is a remedy—Jesus forgives and cleanses us when we admit and turn from our sins. Grace gives us the opportunity to keep on that path to life which Jesus made possible. The pardon we are given does not give us freedom to just ignore and break the laws God gave us for our good.

Peter exhorts us all “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).

Paul exhorted the church at Galatian, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:13-14).

Notice the exhortation that Paul gave the church at Corinth: “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). In Chapter 10, Paul writes: “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”

Freedom always has limits; without the limits, some are deprived of their freedom. Those who belong to Christ are free to pursue a life of mercy, justice and humble service of God. We are not free to selfishly pursue our own interests while depriving others of theirs.