Freedom, I’m told, is the absence of tyranny. I realized one day that everybody’s got an idea of the kind of freedom they ought to have, mostly inaccurate. History and human nature proves that humans have a strange habit of running straight to tyranny at the least provocation. It’s because we’re mixed up about freedom. Without comprehending tyranny in its worst form, no one will cling to real freedom. Real freedom isn’t doing whatever we want whenever we want. Tyranny isn’t just despotic government. Let me show you what real tyranny is by telling a story that I often begged my dad to tell me.
A long time ago, a young boy named Allen lived at the edge of a dark but beautiful forest. The forest was full of lush trees and vegetation. Often, the wind carried faint tones of exquisite music out of it, catching the ear of some housewife at her chores or farm boy laboring in the soil. Whoever stopped to listen left everything behind, be it work or children, and wandered into the woods, half-crazed, in search of this soul-piercing music. No one who entered the woods was seen again. Allen’s parents warned him not to listen to the music. It would be his ruin.
At first Allen believed them. And then he began to question. What could be so dangerous about a tune of such beauty? Sometimes, Allen felt curiosity and then anger rise inside of him. Why all the fuss? Why frighten him with old wives’ tales?
One day, Allen stole guiltily to the edge of the forest and peered in. Breathtaking! So cool and calm! Such a retreat from the heat of the day! Just like that, he stepped inside. Holding his breath, he waited for death to overtake him. But it didn’t. He laughed and scampered on. Then the music floated by. Struck with its beauty, he drank it in, unaware that his feet moved in its direction. Vines curling around the trees snaked along the ground behind him, unnoticed. They curled around his legs playfully. He walked on, dead to all sensation but the music that woke hunger in his soul but never satisfied. Suddenly, he tripped. He woke to the world, feeling the vines grow thicker and tighter around his body. He struggled, but thorns sprouted in seconds, tearing his skin. The music had grown raucous and ugly. The darkness was profound, the aching hunger excruciating.
“I’ve done wrong!” Allen cried out. “Someone, please help!”
“Allen,” a calm voice spoke.
Allen craned his neck. Above him stood a man in simple clothes. An axe hung from his hand. There were terrible wounds in his wrists, but they did not dispel the strength in his arms.
“Allen, do you want to be free?” he asked.
“Yes,” Allen sobbed.
“Have you tried to free yourself?”
Allen only wept in answer.
“Do you believe that I can set you free?”
Allen looked at the vines, wrapped like serpents around him, then back.
The man smiled. He lifted the axe and with a mighty blow, struck it into a thick vine. Immediately, the vines began to wilt. The man pulled Allen to his feet, led him to the edge of the woods and disappeared. Allen never entered the woods again. The music called, but he didn’t answer.
Allen is all of us, lured into the worst tyranny, the tyranny of sin. The pleasure of sin calls in its temporary beauty and meets the wickedness in our hearts. Before we know what’s happened, it has us wrapped in its coils until the man with the axe comes quietly and asks us if we want to be free. His hands are scarred with wounds our sins inflicted. But all He requires is a heart of belief in His power, a heart that He breathed life into, and a call to Him in our desperation. He lifts his axe and crushes the serpent, that old serpent the devil.
Before Christ, we were powerless to stop listening to the music. There was no recourse when we wandered into the forest. But now, the serpent has been dealt its death blow. Satan’s attempts on us are weakened. We are free to glorify our Savior, free to praise Him, free to reject the anxiety, the bitterness, the despair, the lust, the anger that still tries to lure us in. Governments may turn despotic and religious freedoms may be stripped away. But real freedom is as secure as God on His throne. The Gospel–that is true freedom.