Is Christianity Restrictive? (Part 3) - Personal Freedom - BVAQ

Sermons & Study MaterialIs Christianity Restrictive? (Part 3)

Is Christianity Restrictive? (Part 3)

Does Love Restrict People’s Personal Freedom?

The source of all of Christianity’s restrictions and limitations is love. It may be surprising to hear that love—which almost everyone likes and thinks is good—is also extremely freedom limiting and restrictive. Love is also one of the most important aspects of Christianity:[5]

  • 1. Cor. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • Col. 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
  • Joh. 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Love is perhaps the best illustration of how limiting your freedom can bring you to a higher level of satisfaction and joy.

[Discussion: How does love limit one’s freedom? How could limiting one’s freedom out of love for another bring higher satisfaction and joy? Remember the Ice Breaker question from the beginning (How did you first know that you were in love?)]

Whether we are speaking about love towards a friend or romantic love, you must restrict your personal freedom to attain a more fulfilled and meaningful relationship. You cannot have a deep relationship with someone without some degree of self-sacrifice. If you always do what you want to do and never take the one you allegedly love into consideration, your relationship with the other will be superficial. The greater your self-sacrifice in a relationship, the deeper and more meaningful it will be.

The reknown French novelist Francoise Sagan expressed this well in her interview with Le Monde. She expressed her satisfaction with how she lived her life and had no regrets: [6]

  • Interviewer: Then you have had the freedom you wanted?
  • Sagan: Yes… I was obviously less free when I was in love with someone… But one’s not in love all the time. Apart from that… I’m free.

We are faced with the paradox of freedom: We are most alive and free when we’re in loving relations which involve the highest restrictions on freedom through self-sacrifice and limiting our options. As Tim Keller writes, “Freedom, then, is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is finding the right ones, those that fit our nature and liberate us.”[7]

Loving relations peak when there is mutual self-sacrifice, both sides adjusting to one another. One side’s doing all can feel exploitative, and this is where you might stumble regarding relations with God. You might feel that God, being perfect and having all the power, will be a one-way street where you are doing all the adjusting and self-sacrifice to meet his standard of perfection, which you can’t achieve solo.

While this might be true in other religions, it’s not so in Christianity. The god of Christianity made the biggest adjustment and self-sacrifice to make the most fulfilling relationship with you possible. God, existing in all his limitlessness and perfection, humbled himself to suffer on this earth.

Php 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

God, in the form of Jesus, left his abode of perfection and limitlessness to become a restricted, vulnerable, and suffering human. He lived the perfect life we could never life and credits that to our account, because on the cross, he took our condition as sinners upon himself deserving eternal punishment for crimes against him. This enables God to remain just, since punishment for sin was given, and enables those who want to have love-based relations with him to enjoy him not only in this world but also forevermore after our resurrection. Keller puts this perfectly:[8]

In the most profound way, God has said to us, in Christ, “I will adjust to you. I will change for you. I’ll serve you though it means a sacrifice for me.” If he has done this for us, we can and should say the same to God and others. St. Paul writes, “the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).

A friend of C. S. Lewis’s was once asked, “Is it easy to love God?” and he replied, “It is easy to those who do it.”

That is not as paradoxical as it sounds. When you fall deeply in love, you want to please the beloved. You don’t wait for the person to ask you to do something for her. You eagerly research and learn every little thing that brings her pleasure. Then you get it for her, even if it costs you money or great inconvenience. “Your wish is my command,” you feel—and it doesn’t feel oppressive at all. From the outside, bemused friends may think, “She’s leading him around by the nose,” but from the inside it feels like heaven.

For a Christian, it’s the same with Jesus. The love of Christ constrains us. Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in him.

You will never be able match the self-sacrifice Jesus did for you. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior and the lord of your life, no matter how many times you fail him, he will never fail you. No matter how many times you put him aside by prioritizing other things like money, material possessions, and success, he will never cast you aside. Furthermore, all the restrictions he requires are for our benefit in every way—just like parents put restrictions in place for their children’s own benefit.

Is Christianity Restrictive?

Christianity is restrictive. It is about love-based relations with God and, like all other loving relations, achieves its fullest, deepest meaning and joy through mutual self-sacrifice.

While you were indifferent to God, he sacrificed himself, gave his life for you, and calls you to love relationship with him now and forever. Does this mean that you’ll have to restrict your freedom and do some self-sacrificing, just like in every other love relationship? Yes. Will it look ridiculous to those watching on from the outside? Probably. But as C.S. Lewis said, from the inside it feels like heaven.

Sources:

[5] See also the “Great Commandment” in Matthew 22:36–40

[6] As seen in Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, p. xiv, location 1032/4761, Kindle Edition.

[7] Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, p. xiv, location 1058/4761, Kindle Edition.

[8] Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, p. xiv, location 1058/4761, Kindle Edition.



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