Now that you have reinforced your freedom, you have another, probably more difficult, question to answer. Do you accept freedom for others and God? Do you accept that people and God are free to act however they want?
Of course, there are clear examples and great reasons to limit other’s freedom that will be discussed later. For now, entertain the thought that you may be actually or mentally denying freedom to others and even God.
Are People Free to Be Themselves?
When you start learning about freedom, you may hear yourself say something like, "I am giving them freedom."
Well, that might imply you do not understand how freedom works. You can only give someone freedom when it is actually in your control. For example, you can give someone a goal to achieve, unlock their cell door, or give them your automobile keys to use your car.
But that is not giving them freedom in the way we are discussing it. People are already free to act however they want. That is not something you give - it is something that you ACCEPT that it is true.
Are You Controlling Others?
You probably do not realize how much you try to control other people.
Are you mad at them without telling them? Are you discouraged, angry, depressed, or resentful when “They just don’t get it”? Are their poor values, bad decisions, or lousy thinking causing you to worry and fret? Perhaps you think, “They don’t realize how bad ‘that’ is and what ‘that’ does to them, the kids, and others (and ME)! Or “If they don’t get this corrected, [insert something terrible] will happen to them (and reflect on me)!”
That thinking denies the reality of their freedom to act badly, even sin, and experience the consequences. Of course, that is why you are trying to limit their freedom, so they will not experience the consequences. And, too often, you want to control other people’s lives for the wrong reason. If they change, then you can relax and be happy – at least for a little while.
I am Only Concerned
You claim, “I’m only concerned. Isn’t that okay?”
If you answer yes, you may see sin in another person’s life, you know sin has consequences. If that is the case, you can hope, pray, and encourage, and perhaps exhort and rebuke. You do those things, because you know God has asked you to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). You are not doing this to be the Jr. Holy Spirit in their life – you do it because it is pursuing their best.
Or, if your answer is no, it is more like you feel compelled to make them change. If true, that is where their behavior controls you. You are living in the Left Circle. You may have the right motive, hoping they change to not experience the consequences of the sin, but you see this as your responsibility – not God’s and theirs – to change their behavior. Be careful and be objective. Your ME flashing will remove objectivity every time.
Satan and your sin nature can take the beauty of grace and freedom and distort it. Please do not let that happen.
What If They Never Change?
Even if you recognize that you are controlling others and stop, you will quickly reboot your control when you ask this question.
But what if they never change? What if they keep their poor values and destructive behavior?
Satan wants you to ask that question because it begs you to worry and fear the future. The more you worry and fear, controlling their behavior will appear to be the only option. And, what makes you control? You want the worry gone. You want peace and rest. You want to be happy, which causes your ME to flash!
As you know, only God knows the future. But Satan wants you to trust your lousy thinking and fear instead of trusting God and driven by love (pursuing their best). But you want freedom from worry, so you control to change their behavior. But that enslaves you. Only trusting God can free you from worry!
Additionally, consider this…
Worry is not only unnecessary; it is also disrespectful and disobedient to God.
Accepting their freedom does not mean you give up on them changing! Freedom accepts reality – changing them is not your job. And whether they change or not, your job is simple, tell the truth, and love them – pursue their best. Change is their job and dependent upon God’s plan.
God Wants You to Trust Him
God is more concerned with teaching you patience or how to trust Him in those situations. Yes, God may use you as an instrument to help them change, but do not mix up being the instrument versus the cause.
In times of trial, you have an excellent opportunity to embrace the pain instead of running from it, and then you will see what God wants to teach you through it! Your responsibility is to offer truth and not nag them about the truth. Truth can defend itself.
If you decide to control, beware, it will hurt your relationships. Control truly or artificially limits a person’s options, making it difficult for them to see or make choices.
When you try to control a person, you act as though they have no choice; they are a robot to be programmed to follow directions without additional options. There is no freedom there!
What Happens When You Try to Control Someone?
Think about when someone tries to control you. What is your tendency? Most likely, you do not like it and want away from the control, right? Control encourages rebellion and encourages both of you to live in the Left Circle. You will live in the Left Circle because you want them to change – they will live there because they want you to change.
When you see or feel your freedom being removed, it often results in fear, defensiveness, and even anger. You may aggressively push back or sink into passivity, agreeing with them that you had no choice. Either way, the relationship is impacted negatively, and you do not want to be around that person.
So, are other people free? Yes, the reality is they are, but your actions will demonstrate whether you firmly grip that truth.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence. – Abraham Lincoln
Is God Free to Be God?
You can give your Sunday school answer or answer by looking at your life. Living in freedom accepts the reality that God is free to do anything He desires with you. In The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs calls that the passive form of worship – you are pleased with whatever circumstances God has allowed in your life because He is God, and you are not.
While God provides you freedom, He is highly interested in conforming you into the image of Christ. So, He will put things in your life to give you the best opportunity for spiritual growth and maturity.
Some things He does will not feel good. You see God as free when you do not complain about those things. When you gripe and complain about what He is doing, you want to limit God’s freedom, expressing your freedom instead. You are self-sufficient instead of trusting God. You trust in your meagerness rather than the complete perfection of a loving Father.
Reality is your friend, but it is often tough to accept. You know the truth – God IS free to do whatever He wants. We do not trust that His freedom is best for us.
A better alternative – be thankful because
His wants and His ways are always perfect.