Limits Bring Freedom

Seek the LORD and live… ESV Amos 5:6

Because Christ has set us free, we sometimes have a tendency to think all limits are wrong, or somehow “legalistic.” To be sure, many are, but upon studying self-imposed limits, it’s fascinating how they often enable us to focus more carefully. This focus leads to greater creativity and productivity. Consider the Amish. I read an interesting piece in the NY Times explaining Amish interactions with smart phones and other technology. Erik Wesner comments “Amish life is about recognizing the value of agreed-upon limits, and the spirit of the internet cuts against the idea of limits.” Donald Kraybill noted the remarkable entrepreneurial and capitalistic nature of the Amish that flows from their “culture of restraint.” One would think a supposedly backwards and sheltered way of life would lead to less innovation and economic development. However, the Amish appear to thrive, not just numerically, but also in their business prowess and even in their interaction with certain technology. From them, we can learn things that impact our spiritual formation.

Perhaps the Amish have tapped into God’s principles of self-imposed limitation. Even in the garden, God restrained Adam and Eve from unbridled lust for all fruit. He forbade them from eating from one tree. The ten commandments further “limit” us, calling us away from worshiping other Gods, calling us to cease from work one day out of seven, calling us never to take the life of our neighbor or desire his wife or property. We mistakenly assume life is best when lived without restraint. However, perhaps we can learn from Scripture life is better with constraints. These constraints cause us to seek the Lord, and as we seek Him, we find true life. Instead of constraints being hindrances, they actually draw our attention to God and allow us to take hold of what is best in each situation. Learning this enables us to thrive in our spiritual formation.

May you embrace limits in your spiritual life. Realize these constraints can keep you focused on what matters most rather than having your energies scattered in a thousand directions. Sometimes God will place limits on you; at other times He will ask you to choose restraints. Things like Sabbath serve as a self-imposed limit that ultimately calls us to seek the Lord and live…in freedom.


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