Where Can People Find Freedom?
HUMANS have a natural desire for freedom. They want to speak their beliefs freely without being muzzled or persecuted, and to worship according to their conscience. They desire to be allowed to pursue happiness, including freedom to earn a livelihood. Even then, however, if their employment is not work that they enjoy, or does not make use of their talents, they are unhappy.
Few are the people who have all of these freedoms today. Some have become discouraged, even embittered, and have struck out for self-determination. They want absolute freedom to act according to their desire. They want to practice things harmful to themselves, such as drug abuse, or to behave in a way detrimental to others. They feel that they should have the right to do anything they wish. Some even want freedom to do nothing.
But is this swing from a feeling of oppression under the present order of society to the other extreme—absolute independence—the way to freedom? The extent of anyone’s freedom must logically be only in relation to the freedom enjoyed by others. If everybody did altogether according to his own selfish desire, no one would have any freedom. There would be no security in property rights, no personal safety, as everyone would be free to take whatever he wanted, to do whatever he wished. Goods and services would be almost impossible to obtain. No, there must be order, with everyone playing his reasonable part. And for order to exist, there must be law. Proper laws and regulations work for happiness.
As an example, take the natural laws. We work within the framework of these laws and are happy that they exist. If the law of gravity were to be removed, humans could not stay on the surface of the earth. And no one can ignore the law of gravity with impunity.
The same is true of the moral laws established by God. These are just as inexorable in their enforcement as are the natural laws, though not always as quickly enforced. Say, for instance, that a married man commits adultery. He may feel that extramarital sex is a “liberated” form of sex outlet and a beneficial experiment. But he has broken a moral law. In doing so he has damaged himself and violated the rights of others. (1 Thess. 4:3-6) He is in danger of contracting a loathsome venereal disease. His relationship with his wife will certainly suffer, no matter how “sophisticated” he may consider her, and a divorce may well result. If he has children, they also are harmed for life.
Some may say that this is antiquated thinking. But note what Time magazine, in its issue of November 25, 1974, reports about those who practice “open marriage”—an agreement to allow outside affairs for one’s mate—actually adultery:
“Many counselors report severe and often unexpected problems of jealousy (‘something whose power we all underestimated,’ says Novelist Robert Westbrook, whose open marriage broke up).
“ . . . The pain of knowing about a partner’s affairs is reviving an old middle-class strategy—hypocrisy, combining official faithfulness and unofficial freedom.”
And what about those who take the “liberated” attitude toward sex—that anything goes, even between married partners? Reader’s Digest of March 1975 cites the book Divorced in America, by editor and lecturer Joseph Epstein, which speaks of the fight that some prominent men have “won” against the former rigid code of sexual conduct and says: “But the triumph has issued not in greater freedom but only in greater license, which is not at all the same thing.” Then, as to the emphasis on technique in sex, the book goes on to say: “In the process, tenderness is wrenched from sensuality, instead of the two flowing together; sex becomes fornication pure and simple; and we are more enslaved in our bodies than perhaps ever before.”
Consequently, by the violation of a moral law a man (or a woman) may ruin his entire life. Not only does he imperil his family relationships. He loses the respect of others. Such a person may think that he is taking a “liberated” course, but afterward he cannot avoid loss of self-respect and the inner condemnation of a bad conscience.
While it is obvious that it is necessary to recognize the rights of others, the primary one whose rights we must recognize is God. Does God lose if we infringe on his rights? No, except that he feels “hurt at his heart” because he knows that we are taking a course against our best interests. (Gen. 6:6) We cannot add to or take away anything from God. The Bible says: “Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him [the giver]?” (Rom. 11:35) But we can encroach upon his rights, to the injury of ourselves and others.
What are the Creator’s rights? They are to direct the things that he created to fulfill the purpose for which they were made. Right now all people are imperfect and have deviated from the course that they should be taking. Therefore, more than the usual attention should be given to what God says, in order that we might be brought back into the proper standing with him.
SLAVERY TO SIN AND DEATH
Nearly all people have been talking for centuries about achieving freedom. Why? Because they do not have it. All are slaves, not necessarily to men, but to sin and death. This means that to be really free, a person would have to be relieved of sin, which would mean release from sickness and death, which are produced by sin. (Rom. 6:23) When Jesus Christ was on earth he said to the Jews: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.” He told them how they could be free from this deadly plague, saying: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . If the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.”—John 8:31-36.
CAN A GOVERNMENT BY GOD BRING FREEDOM?
Could people live under God’s laws and yet enjoy complete freedom? Let us consider some of the laws that were in effect when God had a representative government on earth.
Under God’s government over Israel, each man had his own land inheritance. He and his family could earn a good livelihood from it. But every seventh year was a sabbath year, during which the fields were not to be sown or reaped. (Leviticus 25:1-7) Much time was thereby allowed for the family to be together. They could discuss God’s laws and dealings, getting to know him better. If anyone had talents along certain lines, he could develop and pursue these. Many became skilled in trades and crafts of a wide variety. They (including women) could thereby contribute to the welfare of the community.
Then every fifty years there was a “Jubilee,” a time of great freedom. If a man had, because of financial reverses, “sold” his inheritance or a part of it, this was now restored to him. All debts were canceled. If the man or members of his family had become slaves to pay off some indebtedness, they were free to return to their inheritance. (“Slavery” was not as it is usually pictured today. Under Israel’s law a Hebrew “slave” was actually treated as a hired laborer.) How could a people become more free?—Lev. 25:8-22, 39, 40.
Well, greater freedom in every respect will be enjoyed soon by those who live under God’s Messianic kingdom, which will rule from the heavens for a thousand years. Jesus Christ as its King will represent God’s sovereign power. Under the Kingdom, complete freedom from man’s greatest enslaver, sin, along with the death that is a result of sin, will be brought about. (1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:3, 4) Through the administration of Christ as King and High Priest, humans, including many resurrected ones, will be lifted up to absolute perfection of mind and body.—Rev. 20:11-13; Heb. 11:39, 40.
Then, when the thousand years reach their end, Christ will turn perfected mankind over to Jehovah God himself. (1 Cor. 15:24) All who then love God’s sovereignty and who do not have the desire for the ruinous course of self-determination will be declared ‘sons of God.’ The apostle Paul, referring to this purpose of God, says: “The creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
Children of God! Men and women will be God’s own sons and daughters, in his own family—clean, perfect and holy, as he is. Under his love for them as Father, what freedom they will have! They will enjoy perfect health, free from any destructive natural calamities. (Isa. 25:6-8) There will be no man-made governments, no dictators, no bosses. (Luke 22:25, 26) People will not regard the practice of immoral things as “freedom.” They will be subject to laws for the orderly operation of affairs, but they will not need laws against immorality, theft, murder and the depraved things to which man is now subject. About this the apostle Paul wrote:
“Now we know that the [Mosaic] Law is fine provided one handles it lawfully in the knowledge of this fact, that law is promulgated, not for a righteous man, but for persons lawless and unruly, ungodly and sinners, lacking loving-kindness, and profane, murderers . . . fornicators, . . . liars.”—1 Tim. 1:8-10.
When Jesus Christ was on earth as a perfect man of flesh and blood, he had no tendency to do these degraded things. Keeping the Law was natural for him. He proved that sin is not a necessary or inherent thing for fleshly persons, as the apostle Paul explains: “God, by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin [he came to offer himself as an atonement sacrifice to do away with sin], condemned sin in the flesh.”—Rom. 8:3.
CHRISTIAN FREEDOM TODAY
Even now, those who come to a knowledge of Jehovah God and his purposes can, though not yet perfect, please God and enjoy great freedom, as the apostle continues: “that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not in accord with the flesh, but in accord with the spirit [of God].” (Rom. 8:4) They follow “the perfect law that belongs to freedom.”—Jas. 1:25.
True Christians therefore exercise great freeness of speech in telling others about the freedom that mankind can attain through God’s arrangement. (Phil. 1:18-20) But they follow the apostle Peter’s counsel: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.” (1 Pet. 2:16) They experience great comfort, peace and security even in this world enslaved to sin. They have proved for themselves the truth of Jesus’ words: “You will find refreshment.”—Matt. 11:29.