The Truth About Freedom
How is it that we use our freedom? Usually, it seems, we use it pretty selfishly. A couple of years ago, then-Laker Andrew Bynum (an All-Star center who plays close to the basket) took a ridiculous three-pointer in a game. It barely touched the rim, missing by a mile. Incensed, coach Mike Brown immediately called Bynum to the bench and put in a substitute.
“I’m good,” Bynum said postgame. ”I guess ‘Don’t take threes’ is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result. Hopefully, I make it.”
So there you have it: message received, freedom asserted, and message ignored. People think that punishment will correct behavior. Andrew Bynum’s postgame comments illustrate a competing (though more accurate) truth: punishment incites rebellion. The law (e.g. don’t shoot three-pointers if you don’t have a reasonable expectation of making them) asks for a certain behavior. Bynum got it right: Don’t take threes. When it doesn’t get what it’s looking for, the law inflicts punishment, hoping that a program of reeducation will produce better results the next time. Unfortunately, as Christian theologians have always noted, the law is much better at asking for a result than it is at achieving it.
Martin Luther likened the relationship of the law to results to a lion held down by steel bands. The lion fights against the bands, and the tighter the bands become, the more viciously the lion fights. We fear freeing the lion because of the ferocity with which it strains, forgetting that all the while the lion is fighting the bands, not us. Released, the lion has nothing to struggle against, and will likely cease its struggling.
The true freedom of grace overwhelms the asserted freedom we shout in the face of the law. Here’s to real independence: the freedom that comes from a savior who has kept the law in our place, and which allows us to live, delivered from bondage.