immense freedom, substantial structure…

January 5, 2013



Human beings are a curious mix. Twisted tightly together within 

us are a yearning for freedom and a craving for boundaries, a desire for liberty and a demand for structure. We don’t want to be told what to do – but we voraciously consume program upon program that promises three simple rules or four easy steps to a cultural ‘ideal’ version of ourselves. We want to be free to choose our own clothes, but then submit to the style masters of fashion. 

We are quick to shrug off the claims of religion, and then straightjacket ourselves into the restricted methodology of science. 


 God, the good giver of life, gives us freedom and boundaries. Both. In the book of Exodus He rescues his people from slavery that abuses and reduces them to instruments of wealth and power – he takes them into a wide, open space in the wilderness. Utter freedom. And then he gives them the law.

Boundaries, structure, purpose, benchmarks, criteria, a line of right and wrong.

But even in the laws and the boundaries, there is inherent freedom – the boundaries all call us back into the freedoms of Love –

  • love for God, (I am your God, don’t be unfaithful with other idols)
  • love for truth, (Do not bear false witness)
  • love for peace and wholeness (remember the Sabbath rest, to keep it holy),
  • love for life (Do not murder),
  • love for our community (Do not steal, do not covet),
  • love for family (Honour your parents, Do not commit adultery). 

The people of Israel came to love and retell this episode in the story of God more than perhaps any other. The experience of God giving them immense freedom and substantial structure defined their identity as a nation and as people in relationship with God. Sure, they struggled across their history, both to inhabit the freedom God offered, and to adhere to the structure. But nevertheless, when the wheels fell off, as often happened, they returned to this story for realignment, restoration, and redemption. 

(from Barnett, Twists and Turns, 2012)

One comment

  1. You write beautifully Beth!
    I love your summary of the 10 commandments as “freedoms to Love”.
    The word in your reflection that “sings” for me today is your last phrase: “returning to the story for realignment” – in my freedom I tend to wander a lot and I benefit greatly from a fixed point on the horizon to realign my steps … ultimately giving even greater peace and freedom.
    Thanks Beth – may your time in community over the next few days allow you great freedom to love.

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