Just as I was planning to write on the notion of being free in Christ I came across an article on the Art of Manliness website explaining two different types of freedom. I wanted to cover the topic of freedom in Christ as a follow-up to the posts that I just wrote concerning God's plan for our lives. That series concluded with me saying:
"[W]hen we are abiding in God and his Words are abiding in us, we can rest assured that we will be making solid decisions that have good eternal consequences."
Which means that we have a freedom to make decisions as long as we are in Christ. So I wanted to explore the what it mean to have freedom in Christ and that is when I read the article "Freedom From...Freedom To." The article does a good job of covering the difference between being free from something which is negative freedom and being free to do something which is positive freedom. The terms negative and positive freedom do not speak to the relative goodness of something as we might assume. Rather the terms speak to how the freedom relates to us.
Negative freedom means that external controls on what we might want to do are absent. So for example if there was a law against owning purple dinosaurs then we would not be free from the law. However if no such law exists then we are free from the restriction of owning purple dinosaurs.
Positive freedom means that we are in control of doing those things that we want to do. So when there is no law restricting the ownership of purple dinosaurs we are free to own a purple dinosaur if we want to. We are not required to own a purple dinosaur but rather have the choice of owning one or not.
The article sums up the differences like this:
"The concept of negative freedom can be summed up as: 'I am a slave to no man.'"
"The concept of positive freedom can be summed up as: 'I am my own master.'"
This understanding of freedom is essential to understanding the freedom that we have in Christ.
The concept that needs to be understood from the positive/negative freedom discussion is that freedom must always be viewed in relational terms. This remains true with our freedom in Christ. We do not have some sort of nebulous freedom rather we have been freed from something and to something else. Paul makes it pretty clear in Romans 6 that we have been set free from sin through the work of Christ but that this freedom from sin has a second side. We have been set free from sin and to obedience to God. Every freedom has two sides to it; every freedom has a consequence.
As human beings we have two choices. The first is to reject God and the second is to be obedient to God. The first option is what we call sinfulness. We decide to be free from being obedient to God but there is a second side to choosing this freedom. We must then live with the consequence of living a sinful life which leads to eternal judgment. The second option is to choose to be obedient to God's commands. The second side to this is that we are not free to do what ever we want. Rather we are free to only do those things that fall within the will of God.
This is the controlling factor when it comes to making decisions and trying to follow God's will. We have to deal with both negative freedom aspects as well as positive freedom aspects. We can freely choose to do what ever we want to do but we are not free from the restrictions of God's commands. This is why it is essential for us to be reading the Bible in order to make good decisions.