“People Everywhere Just Want To Be Free”
I can still hear that Rascals’ song ringing in my ears from the summer of ’68, “All the world over it’s so easy to see, people everywhere just want to be free.” For many in my generation this “freedom” meant: freedom from moral constraint, to enjoy recreational sex, drugs and whatever felt good at the moment. Though this philosophy was seductively appealing on the surface, it has led to the slavery and death-not just for my generation, but for every society throughout history who have ever tried it.
Today, nearly 40 years later, as family men who seek to follow Christ when we have an unprecedented explosion of technological innovation, the struggle to be TRULY FREE -from the tyranny of sin-is more challenging than ever. Pornography can now be easily accessed on our cell phones or watched on our cable television or our laptop computer. Besides these temptations, American men face epidemics of drug and alcohol abuse, compulsive overwork, gambling and excessive watching of sports on TV.
How can I recognize if I have become enslaved? Here a few questions to ask myself: Is it something that I feel powerfully and consistently drawn to and would not be able to stop even if I wanted to? Is it something that is separating me from having a closer relationship with God or my family? Does it feel “familiar?” (Notice that the word of “family” is in the word “familiar” a father will inadvertently model to his son particular habits or behaviors he has learned to numb life’s pain.)
You and I may protest, “So what if I can identify an area or two that is a little bit of a crutch or escape for me? Who does it really hurt?” The answer to this is that it hurts the most important people in my life-my wife and my own children. It hurts them because when I seek my own comfort as a priority in this painful world, there is less of “me” to offer to them and “me” is most important thing I have to offer them as a husband or father. This also goes for my relationship with God. By nibbling on the junk food of my addiction of choice, I “spoil my appetite” for the perfectly nutritious and satisfying meal of fellowship with the Heavenly Father.
So how can I find can I experience genuine, God-pleasing freedom as a man today? In my reading of the Bible I have found an interesting couple of paradoxes regarding freedom. When I say “paradox” this is the idea of the teaching of two contradictory things at the same time.
Jesus claims that in order to find the freedom that He promises over sin, a person first needs to admit that he is a slave, utterly helpless over sin without Him. In John chapter 8 He is in one of his typical arguments with some pretty prideful religious types (sheep bites hurt the most!) His accusers did not see that they were slaves to anyone or anything. Nothing that the Lord could say would convince them otherwise.
As I read this, I can see myself in those who could not see their own slavery. This is the first challenge to experiencing His freedom. Am I willing to become brutally honest with myself and with God and admit that there are things in my life that are controlling me? These could be things that I have become enslaved to and are separating me from closeness to God and those I love. It is that simple. To accept His freedom I must admit my slavery.
Some men’s addictions are more obvious or embarrassing than others, but each of us is in bondage to something. As I wrote last month, we often will not even be aware of what that is until some “trial” (something that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, joy or happiness in my life) reveals it.
So let’s get real practical, for me as a husband, as a father, I can begin to look at the very ones I love the most as the greatest threats to my personal freedom. “Only if ________would change his/her particular habit or behavior, then I would be truly free.” If I believe this then I am truly foolish. Jesus clearly teaches here and in other places that freedom comes from dealing with my own attitudes and behaviors first, “taking the log out of my own eye” before I become a “speck inspector” of others.
Another paradox he teaches is that I will begin to experience His freedom not by doing what I want or what “feels good” but by serving the very ones who are most likely to take my serving for granted-my own wife and children. When I see serving others, starting with my family, not as a tiresome obligation, but rather a joyful opportunity, I will begin to see everything differently. As I take these opportunities to grow out of my natural self-centeredness and grow into a supernatural God-born other-centeredness, then I will increase in real, genuine lasting joy. And that is good news for the whole family!
The Apostle Paul said it this way: “For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom, into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
“All the world over it’s so easy to see, people everywhere just want to be free.” That is still true but you and I can never taste real freedom unless we admit our slavery and we can never grow in that freedom unless we are willing to humbly serve. The home is where we CAN and where we MUST learn this first.