Freedom: When we think about freedom, we almost always think about it in its negative sense—freedom from. In his 1958 lecture, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Isaiah Berlin distinguished between negative and positive freedom. “Negative freedom, as Berlin defines it, is freedom from—in essence, freedom from interference and constraint. Positive freedom is freedom for—in essence, freedom for excellence according to whatever vision and ideals define that excellence” . What happens when we divorce the two freedoms and only think about freedom in its negative sense?
Essence: True freedom includes both the negative and the positive sense. As Os Guinness writes, “Neither positive nor negative freedom is complete without the other. They each describe complementary sides of the same full freedom, which always rests on two conditions: the complete absence of any abuse of power, which is the essence of negative freedom, and a vision of a positive way of life, which is the essence of positive freedom. In a free society understood in this way, free citizens are neither prevented from doing what they should (the denial of positive freedom) nor forced to do what they shouldn’t (the denial of negative freedom)” . For example, he says, the American Revolution was both freedom from the British and freedom for the American experiment.
Bounds: The Psalmist celebrates full freedom: “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways … I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts” . In other words, he is seeking freedom from the ensnarement of worthless things that demand his worship and freedom for the joy of running in the statutes of God and seeking the Lord with his whole heart. This is true freedom.
Prayer: Lord, We confess that true freedom is not a lack of restrictions; it is finding the right restrictions that fit our being. Like fish that find true freedom within the confines of the fish bowl and die when “liberated” from those constraints, we, too, seek true freedom within the loving confines of your statutes. For that is where we find true freedom—freedom from living as slaves to sin and freedom for living as children of God. Amen.
 Os Guinness. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. (To see a 45-minute video of Guinness speaking on this book at Socrates in the City in NYC, click here.) |  Id. |  Psalm 119:37, 45 ESV