One “virtue” that most college students seek is freedom. We want freedom to have sex with whenever I want, love whoever I like, buy whatever I desire, and drink or smoke however I choose. College is not, however, a time when we seek the virtue of personal responsibility. Sometimes, we deny God’s right to hold us accountable and even our friend’s right to do so. “Don’t judge me” is a mantra. Yet, true freedom is intimately intertwined with true moral responsibility.
If we are free, then that means we are not being influenced, in any totally efficacious way, by outside forces. Most of us want to unshackle ourselves from these sort of controls: whether it be our parents, socioeconomic backgrounds, or religious beliefs. Yet, in doing so we take on greater moral responsibility, because as increasingly free humans, we are also increasingly responsible for our decisions.
Who or what else can we blame for the consequences of our poor decisions, when we made them freely or our own will?
Nonetheless, many of us shirk our responsibility. When a cop pulls us over for speeding, we play the victim. When are hearts are broken from a break-up our sin caused, we play the victim. When we make a stupid decision while intoxicated, we deny our responsibility. We don’t want true freedom, with all it’s consequences; we want mock-freedom, the sort of freedom where we choose what we want to do, and what responsibility we want to take. Ironically this attitudes makes a ruin out of our human dignity, because when we we refuse responsibility, we acknowledge our enslavement to outside powers. (i.e. “I was stressed out”, “I wasn’t thinking straight”, “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings”)
In mock-freedom we’re enslaved to our selfish desires and to all the petty idols that promise us our worth. We can’t choose to do good or love good, because we’re enslaved to evil.
Nonetheless, you might be thinking that mock-freedom sounds like a good option. When God saved the Israelites from brutal slavery under they Egyptians he graciously fed them every day with bread from heaven. How did the Israelites respond? They longed to return to Egypt, as slaves, so they could at least eat meat again. They chose meat and slavery over true freedom.
In the same way, when God calls us to do good, or when the Christian life gets tough, we look back and long for our old slavery. Are we foolishly being taken in by the lie that slavery is better than true freedom?
If we want true freedom, then we must accept responsibility for our sinful actions by confessing them to Christ. On the cross he ultimately took our responsibility on himself, by bearing the consequences of our sins in his body. In doing so he broke the chains of sin and death, which held us captive. Only in Christ do we find the true power to love God, love others, love ourselves, and love good. Only in Christ do we receive true freedom, with true responsibility.