One of the reasons why we must have real freedom in Christ is we can’t have real growth without it. God made us in his image, and God is free (Gen 1:26). It is God’s desire that we become more like Him.
In the creation account we were put in a garden with a small set of rules:
- Be fruitful and multiply.
- Subdue the earth
- Care for the garden
- Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
That was it. Adam and Eve were given an incredible amount of autonomy. They could go where they wanted, do what they wanted, and see what they wanted. Basically God said, here are the keys to the house, go knock yourself out, just don’t eat the tasty looking stuff in the back of the freezer. It isn’t any good for you.
God designed us so that we would could learn and grow and make our own decisions about things. A son doesn’t become like his father by asking his father what to do on every situation. A son becomes like his father when he grows up mature, equipped and responsible. A father may be proud of his 4 year old son when the son follows detailed instructions and accomplishes his task. A father would be very disappointed in a 20 year old son that needed that much direction.
What is more impressive? A 16 year old child that cleans the garage because he is told to and if he doesn’t he knows he will be punished or the same child that cleans the garage during their free time because he or she noticed that his or her parents have been very busy lately. True loving sacrifice only has meaning when it happens in a context of freedom. Without freedom it isn’t a loving sacrifice it is just duty.
God desires more than mere duty from us. What kind of true worship or love would we offer if we lived in constant fear of his rejection or punishment? What would a marriage look like if the two parties didn’t freely choose to love and sacrifice for each other? If my motivation to love and serve my spouse was in any way connected to a fear of punishment the whole relationship would be tainted. As the Apostle John said perfect love casts out fear. There is no room for fear in perfect love because anything done in fear by definition is not love.
Christian freedom requires personal autonomy because without it every sacrificial act of love we make is tainted by fear or guilt. Freedom isn’t freedom unless we have the option to make the wrong choice. This is why God’s grace covers us. God’s requirement is that we place our faith in Him so that we can become like Him. Through faith we unite with him in His death so we can share in the power of his resurrection. Attempting to accomplish the same transformation or the same level of obedience it produces by following human authority is just as useless as following the law. It will only stir up the passions and result in more sin.
Christ’s example is our best one, who freely chose to become a servant and sacrifice himself out of love for us. We cannot be like him if cannot freely make the same choice.