I can’t decide if I prefer the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt singing “Desperado.” I love the line “Freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talking, your prison is walking through this world all alone.” Freedom, if you ponder it a while, isn’t just doing whatever I want to do – which is its own prison. Freedom is being with others, making commitments, being part of something larger than yourself. It involves sacrifice.
How interesting that Paul sounds very american – but only until you think about it: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). God wants us to be free! – but what does this mean? Freedom isn’t some natural endowment you just have within you. No, “Christ has set us free.” And from what? All kinds of bondage: we get shackled to self, to habits, to all that is addictive, to the culture, to the fake promises of political ideology, to sin… Christ liberates you from this.
And so once liberated you can do as you wish? Hardly. In Galatians, Paul spells out that we who’ve been freed live as dutiful, diligent servants of Christ, not interested in our own will and desires, but yielding to God’s. It’s like the Israelites, miraculously set free from bondage to the Pharaoh – and God leads them immediately to Mt. Sinai and gives them hundreds of laws, basically showing them how to stay free. Freedom is living in sync with God’s will, not our own.
When Apartheid finally fell in South Africa, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and said “The truth is, we are not yet free. We have merely achieved the freedom to be free.” He wrote a book about his and his country’s journey: The Long Walk to Freedom. americans think, I’m born, I have a pulse, I’m free. But it’s a long trek, an arduous quest to become God’s holy person.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks noticed how Numbers chapter 33, narrates the 42 stops and starts along the way for Israel moving from Egypt to the Promised Land. False starts, mistakes, progress, backsliding, dumbness, rebellion, progress… “The real journey to freedom is not a physical one. It is a mental, moral and spiritual one. Liberty is the freedom to do what we ought, while license is the freedom to do what we like.” Genuine freedom isn’t won by armies or governments. “The most important guarantor of freedom is the ‘habits of the heart’ of the people.”
Habits. Discipline. Doing what we ought to do, for God. This July 4, go beyond the beer, hot dogs and fireworks (if there are any!). Take some time to pray, to study, to set in place some disciplines so our freedom to be free might morph into freedom for God.← See All