Can we ever be truly free?

Are we free? Well, wouldn’t most people say “Yes, of course I’m free”? – because what’s stopping us doing whatever we want? As religious people or atheists we all get up in the morning with the same power to be good or bad, helpful or irritating, or considerate or nasty. Religion may put the fear of God in our heads, or concern about consequences, but we’re still free to reject God and sow our wild oats. We have that power in us. Bottom line, then, we are free, aren’t we?

Paul’s answer is “yes – and no.” On the one hand “No, we’re not free” because we’re “slaves to sin,” Romans 6:20, but on the other hand “Yes, we are free” because “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” That’s quite a statement because it’s talking of two powers that control our lives, sin and righteousness, and at no point in our lives are we free of them. We can be free of one of them, yes, but never both.

So where does that leave us? Well, logically speaking, we’d take a look at what each of the two powers has to offer, right? Which is exactly what Paul suggests, because he asks in Romans 6:21“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?”

Looking back to the time when we were totally free to do whatever we wanted and we couldn’t care less about God or his wishes, what were the benefits of such a life? There were probably good times and good memories, yes, and maybe even a full, productive life doing some good as well, but there’s no denying the fact that all “those things result in death,” verse 21. Even choosing to lead a good life has a catch: It still ends in death. So, what was the benefit of doing all that good if at the end of our physical lives we die just like bad people do?  

And we’re still stuck with regrets too, things we said and did that we have no way of reconciling or solving. I remember one man on his death bed still regretting something he did in his teenage. He was still ashamed of what he did, and he’d never been able to rid his mind of it.

Being free to do whatever one wants has its benefits, no doubt, but if after seventy years or so life ends in nothing, and you’re still riddled with regrets, what sane person would be satisfied with that? How would that be classed as freedom? But, fortunately, Paul talks of another life that’s possible…


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