Freedom From and Freedom For

A long time ago in a galaxy far away I found myself in Louisiana researching freedom in graduate school thinking I’d earn a PhD in political philosophy and write on that topic. Many bad choices there. I watched the professors and decided I didn’t want to be one of them. Then there was the fact that the department discontinued the graduate program when I was at the half-way mark of courses toward an MA.

I looked into a couple of other graduate programs and was accepted into one, but I had lost interest in the system. I’m much happier studying on my own.

I explored two sides of freedom. There is freedom from constraints–think John Locke. There is freedom for fulfilling worthwhile ends–think Jean-Jacques Rousseau. An eminent philosopher had studied this paradox. Isaiah Berlin wrote Liberty exploring these topics.

A couple of thousand years before Berlin, some Eastern Mediterranean religious thinkers and leaders also pondered freedom. One was Jesus of Nazareth who lived out that freedom. Another was his disciple Paul. Others also touched on these topics including James and Peter and John.

A contemporary leader and preacher striving mightily to capture the interest of the younger generations globally, John Fischer (at Catch John Fischer), recently summarized the essence of this liberty argument.

Freedom operates alongside other qualities, most of them more important that freedom itself. We are not set free so we can enslave others; we are set free to serve. We are not set free to break the law, but to follow it. We are not set free to indulge ourselves, but to consider others as more important than ourselves. 

Many think freedom means I can do whatever I want whenever I want to whomever I want. That sounds more like a 2-year-old than an adult to me. The Apostle Paul tried in several of his letters to explain freedom. Maybe it was just the way you wrote in ancient Greek and then got translated into modern English. I don’t think he was as successful as he wished getting the point across clearly.

Yes, I have certain freedom from constraints. Yet, I also have the responsibility to use that freedom for good.

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