By Leslie Vernick
This week, July 4th we celebrate our country’s independence from Great Britain. Freedom is an important, God-given right of every human being. God has given each of us the freedom of choice, to say yes, or to say no. Both are important.
Unfortunately, today’s culture has defined freedom as an unqualified “yes.” In other words, “I can do what I want, when I want, and how I want and no one can stop me or judge me.”
That kind of thinking actually leads to the opposite of freedom: bondage. Peter warns, “they promise freedom, but themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.” (2 Peter 2:19)
What if freedom is more about our ability to say no. What if true freedom is the opposite of an unqualified yes and that you will be most free when you have a good and strong “NO.” No to others, no to ourselves, and even no to God.
We’ve all watched the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Can Belle ever love the Beast? Not as long as she is his prisoner. She wasn’t free to love the Beast until she was free to NOT love him. And she could only decide that when she was free to leave the castle and say, “No.”
That’s why God created us with the freedom to choose. He wants our love for him to be a choice, not forced. Yet the Bible warns that we also need to use our strong NO to stay free from bondage. Both Paul and Peter warn us not to use our freedom to indulge in our flesh (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16).
Titus tells us to say “no” to ungodliness and sinful pleasures and to live in this world with wisdom, righteousness and devotion to God (Titus 2:12). In order to do this, we will have to practice saying no to sinful things, for sure, but also to many things that seem neutral or even good.
For example, we may have to say no to watching television so that we have time and energy to love our family. We may say no to social media in order to focus our attention on things that will help us grow spiritually. We may even have to say no to a child or a spouse, so we’re not over-functioning and enabling selfishness and immaturity.
Ask yourself: do you have the freedom to say no to yourself, to others, and to opportunities without FOMO (fear of missing out), fear of disappointing someone or a sense of guilt?
If not, you haven’t yet experienced real freedom.