With Freedom Comes Responsibility
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
These past two weeks have been reflective.
I have been reading a book by Nik Ripken called, The Insanity of God, which is an autobiography about his missionary pilgrimage to Africa. Nik shares his spiritual and emotional odyssey serving some of the most difficult places and cultures in the world. But one thing, among many, I have observed through this personal account, is the contrast between the author’s dedication to helping others (a choice he made freely), and the captivity of the people he aims to help.
Next there was the shooting at the Washington navy yard which took twelve innocent lives. The shooter was someone I knew and considered a friendly acquaintance. But among the many feelings and thoughts I had towards that shocking and devastating event, past the unfathomable change from patriot to terrorist, I was very aware of a foundational abuse of freedom.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
Also, in my little sphere of living, I have been dealing with challenging friendships. Some seasons seem to be so easy, so natural; but other seasons require much more effort and humility. I have been hurt by a few people who neglected the love I freely entrusted to them, and by choosing their own way have disregarded some of life’s responsibilities, namely to be a faithful friend.
Those three things, combined with any number of others, have resulted in a resounded thought in my head. “With freedom comes responsibility.” In a “take, take, take” culture, where we want our cake and to eat it too (but not get fat from it), it seems we focus on the aspiration for freedom without putting much concern into the responsibilities those freedoms will require. I don’t just mean in civil liberties, but also in our spiritual and emotional lives.
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
Here are just a few, more common, examples I have observed…
I want the freedom to carry a gun, but I don’t want to be responsible if that gun is misused.
I want the freedom salvation offers in Christ, but I don’t want to follow His commandments.
I want the freedom of speech, but I don’t want to be responsible for wounding people with my words.
I want the freedom to drink alcohol, but I don’t want to be told, “moderation.”
I want the freedom to make to my own choices, but I don’t want to be responsible for the consequences.
I want the freedom to marry who I choose, but I don’t want to be forced to stick it out when things get tough.
And the list goes on…
John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But when is truth really free? To me it requires a response. Often I think to myself, “Naivety would be so much easier.” Because once I know the truth about something, everything changes. I feel obliged to see it through. Please read this recap of an excerpt from, The Insanity of God:
Married now and thrilled at the prospect of making good on the biblical command to go to the “ends of the world” he applied through his denomination, along with his wife, to begin the overseas pilgrimage. Soon he was in a small room with his wife and some really serious men in suits. Quietly they looked at the former farm boy and said, “Tell us about your call to foreign missions.” The potential missionary looked at the men and stated, “I read Matthew 28:18 and Acts 1:8.” Smiling the men said, “That’s good but with this board one has to experience and express a “Divine Call” to foreign missions. We need you to share with us when was it that God called you to serve overseas?”
The young candidate repeated with some confusion, “I read the Bible; Matthew 28:18 and Acts 1:8. I read God’s command to go to all the nations and I am TRYING TO GO.”
By now the young man’s wife was near tears, as she could see, as one raised within the denominational milieu, that her husband did not know the secret code words that opened
the doors to getting on a plane and going to Africa.
With great patience the suits explained the agency’s position again on a “call” that would allow the sending agency to support said family on the mission field. Not knowing better, the mission candidate replied, “I am simply trying to be obedient to what God through His word has commanded me to do. It seems that this denomination has created a special call to foreign missions that would give people an excuse not to be obedient to what God has already commanded them to do in going to the Nations.”
Dead silence. He was approved, with his family, for service overseas.
To Nik, he felt called to serve overseas simply because Jesus told him to. It was as simple as that. It was his responsibility to go. And at the end of the day, Christians have a freedom that unbelievers are still enchained to, namely, the penalty of sin. But how can one accept such a gift, such a freedom, which can never be fully repaid, without joyfully accepting the responsibility that goes along with it?
”For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”” (Galatians 5:13-14)