Freedom, Making Choices and the Consequences

How often have we heard someone say, “No one can tell me what to do. I have the right to choose what I want”. Freedom, free choice, free will is very important to us, especially as Americans living in the time that we do. I wonder sometimes whether we have a realistic understanding of freedom. For example, do we understand that our human freedom, while real, is a limited freedom. It is limited by many sorts of things. It is limited by the laws of nature. I can’t by choice overcome the laws of gravity. If I jump off the Empire State Building, I can’t choose to fly instead of fall. I can’t overcome the laws of time. I might love to have lived in 16th century France but I can’t choose to go back there. I can’t easily overcome the laws of my own genetic makeup. I might want to play pro basketball, but at 5 foot 8 inches, I probably won’t get my wish. In these ways and others like them, our freedom is not absolute. But that doesn’t mean that we are totally determined. Within those boundaries we are free to choose many things. And our choices make a difference. And we are responsible for them. I choose to be honest, or to steal, to be generous or selfish, to forgive or to bear a grudge. Furthermore, the consequences of those choices are dramatic. As we make our choices, certain consequences become inevitable. If lying becomes a way of life for many people, the consequence is a world without trust, a difficult world to live in happily. If selfishness governs the lives of too many, the world becomes a place without compassion or connectedness, a world that is mean and unpleasant. We are told that God created us in His own image. Part of what that means is that He has given us free will. But while His freedom is absolute, ours is limited. While limited however, it is real and terribly important. We are really not free to do anything, but what we are free to choose has real consequences for ourselves and others. Let us then understand and use this gift well.