Living Free

God is, by definition, the most free being in existence. Progress toward God means progress in the direction of greater freedom.

The Ten Commandments start with a line that seems to make this point. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” God said in Exodus 20:2. To bring his people closer, he set them free. All of us need this same gift, and in fact we need to be set free in various ways again and again.

In our routine human decisions, it’s hard to see how to exercise freedom without losing that freedom through those very choices. Am I more free if I own a home or rent? Are you more free if you keep your job or quit it? Would another drink or another TV show be a net positive tonight, or should I stop where I am? Our brains do not figure this stuff out very well.

Part of the problem is a lack of information. A more significant part of the problem is that we are lacking in our ability to process the information we have. Our thinking gets cramped within the false priorities that have been given to us by others, or that we have chosen for ourselves. Bound up in these confining mindsets, we get tricked into trading away freedom instead of using and enjoying it.

A way of stating this within the language of the Ten Commandments is that we bow down to idols and other gods. We worship what is small—and these objects of worship keep us as small as they are. To stand up, therefore, lift your worship.

Doing this means shaking loose of the wearying mindsets. It means letting go of everything that isn’t worth revering, everything that stands in the way of your seeking God by living out the special life he created just for you. This letting go will prove to be the process of a lifetime, but that’s OK. Your only role is to turn to the one who actually produces the change. “I am the one who sets you free,” said God.

If it seems ironic that God’s announcement about freedom was immediately followed by a list of commands, then that irony is just a mirage produced by our own misunderstanding. Other mirages shimmer within that same misunderstanding. Seeing the commandments as ten stern rules and trying to obey them through human effort is also an error—an impossible one at that. Jesus showed the way to be human, be free, and live in harmony with these commands, all at the same time.

To begin to see more clearly, it is valuable to appreciate this much: God, the source of freedom, is also the object of freedom. Freedom lies in his direction, meaning the loss of freedom lies in every direction aimed at something else. The Ten Commandments paint a picture of what it looks like to keep on living free.