A timely excerpt from John Howard Yoder:
“All men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” according to the Declaration of Independence. Among these rights is liberty. The American and French revolutions, whose anniversaries both fall in July, made “freedom” their rallying cry. By “freedom” they meant the end of submission to a king, taxes that they deemed unfair, and control of thought and expression. They understood freedom as liberation from outside influence. They believed that if outside hindrances could be removed, their freedom could be achieved.
One of the major gear shifts involved in learning to think like Christians involves recovering from this revolutionary idea of freedom. The notion of being left alone to do as one wants, “free” of any outside influences or controls, is not Christian. Christian freedom is not freedom from something as much as freedom to and for something.
The Bible is more realistic than the revolutionaries of 1776 (America) or 1789 (France). It tells us that our choice is not between freedom and unfreedom, but between two kinds of slavery. We cannot be our own masters. Being one’s own master is the worst form of unfreedom because then one has the most demanding of masters and the least submissive of servants. Still, God gives us the freedom to choose whom we will serve.
It is the feeling of many, especially young people, that freedom means having no rules to follow, no one to give account to, and no one whose wishes have to be considered. In short, it means “being one’s own boss.” But the Bible tells us that if we do not obey God, we have no choice but to obey sin, which is not freedom at all.
Already in the story of Adam and Eve we see this fatal mistake. They were led to believe that if they really wanted to be free, they would have to disobey God. It was too late before they learned that they were actually making themselves slaves of sin and losing their freedom to live in fellowship with God. They had confused freedom from with freedom to, and freedom from God which, again, is not freedom at all.
(Radical Christian Discipleship, 96)