Do you cringe as you read the book of Judges? If you’ve read through it before, then you know the disappointments and the depravity. So much goes wrong in this book. You may be tempted to ignore it, but why? Maybe because it’s too poignant a reminder of our lives.
Have you heard of “negative freedom”? It is freedom without constraints. With this model of society, everyone can live as he chooses as long as it doesn’t harm another person’s freedom. Is this true freedom? If you have been a student of society recently, you realize it is not true freedom because the definition of “harm” is too vague. As one author said, “To have any kind of livable society some choices have to be restricted, some authorities have to be respected, and some individual responsibility has to be assumed.”
Freedom is not attained when we can choose anything or everything. Freedom is when we are enabled to embrace the greatest good over every inferior choice which is an enemy of the best. It is about “finding the right, liberating restrictions.” Someone is reported to have asked a concert violinist in New York’s Carnegie Hall how she became so skilled. She said that it was by “planned neglect.” She planned to neglect everything that was not related to her goal.
The Book of Judges retells the story of negative freedom, “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Jesus unmasked the villain of freedom in John 8. The Pharisees thought he was crazy because they “were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33). Jesus said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). So what is freedom?
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Jesus gives the formula for freedom: Continue in his word as his disciple through strict obedience to the truth and you shall be free! Someone said, “The ultimate bondage is the rebellion against the God who made us…shameful self-centeredness, an evil and enslaving devotion to created things at the expense of worship of the Creator.” The Book of Judges is the living test tube of this moral failure. The negative freedom, shirking the God-given restrictions, led to bondage. The aim in life is not to eliminate all restrictions, but to evaluate and embrace the God-given restrictions which counterintuitively give you great freedom.