Unbelievers often criticize Christianity because of how it takes away personal freedoms. If I agree to follow Jesus, then I can no longer do as I please; I’m no longer free. Christians limit sex to marriage. They don’t party. Their book won’t let them express themselves without worrying about “corrupt communication.” I’m sure you’ve come across this criticism before. In one sense they are right. We don’t have absolute freedom. We do give up some indulgences, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. This happens in any meaningful relationship. Consider Tim Keller’s explanation from his new book Making Sense of God (pp. 107-8):
Let’s say you get into a romantic relationship with someone who lives in the same city. Your independence is immediately curtailed in the most concrete ways. In the past you could simply leave town for the weekend if and when you wanted. Now if you do that, the other person calls you and says, “Where are you?” and can’t believe you left without checking or informing. Now, you might respond by saying, “Well, I don’t have to tell you where I am or where I’m going. I belong only to myself. No one has the right to determine for me how I live my life.” There will be a silence on the other end of the line. The person might say, “I think we need to break up!” and be quite right. Love relationships don’t work that way. You can’t be completely free in the contemporary sense of the word and simultaneously in a strong love relationship.
If we genuinely love God, we will freely restrain ourselves from the sorts of actions that offend and hurt him. That’s what love is: thinking of the other ahead of yourself. Ironically, the limitations God “imposes” on us actually enable us to thrive. Consider for a moment: is a fish on the grass free? It’s finally escaped the limitations of water and it flaps around gleefully experiencing the tearing down of a boundary that all the other fish respected. However, after thirty seconds, the fish is dead. It achieved liberation from its natural habitat, but was it worth it? What did the fish really gain? This is the way it is with us. Through the scriptures, God tells us what the boundaries are and then it’s up to us to believe and obey him, trusting that he actually knows what’s best for us.