By Raphael Rosado
What does it mean to be free? Nowadays it seems that popular consensus has moved towards defining freedom as the capacity for people to make choices without outside interference. The content of the choice doesn’t matter as long as it’s “your choice.”
This definition seems deficient. Think about a certain addict for example. Every day he wakes up and “chooses” to go out looking for the substance that’s killing him. Regardless of all the information readily available on the harmful effects of drugs, every day millions of people decide – in the exercise of their “freedom” – to continue to use them. Is an addict really free? Worse yet, when somebody advises them to stop, many addicts say: “It’s my life, and I am free to do with it what I please.”
Or think about an adolescent starting to discover the world. She wants to exercise her freedom by going to a party with adult entertainment. When her parents advise against going to a place like that, we can almost hear the daughter’s answer: “I am free. You can’t tell me what to do.”
If freedom could be reduced to “choosing for the sake of choosing,” we would be forced to celebrate every mistake in its name. There must be a better definition.
In John 8:32 Jesus tells us, “…You will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Freedom is not about making any decision, is about making the right decision. Anybody can make a choice. But to be truly free, one must choose well. Good decisions can only be made when they are based on the truth: Jesus is the truth.
Later in the passage, Jesus compares sin to slavery (John 8:38). He wasn’t saying anything new; a majority of the great philosophers before him had already observed that a person that gives in to his desires and passions becomes a slave to them, a conclusion we seem to have forgotten. Still, every solution ever devised to that problem had failed.
Jesus gives the only possible solution: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Jesus, in whom complete knowledge resides, knows what’s best for us. Only Jesus can help us get past “choosing for the sake of choosing” in order to move us towards choosing well.
In this Lenten season let’s reflect on what freedom in Christ really means. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).