10. We value the freedom given to us by the Spirit of God. Yet true freedom is not license, to do as we please, to satisfy every whim of desire. Freedom is the liberty to be all God wants us to be; liberty to love and be loved; liberty to serve and be served. To maintain freedom we need to check our hearts often for traces of legalism toward ourselves and toward others. True freedom means the absence of the need to control others, to dominate them. It means the absence of the need to self-justify, to prove ourselves in the sight of others.
Freedom. We hear a lot about freedom about every four years. Of course I’m talking about an election year. There’s always some candidate(s) who tell us that the “other guy” wants to take more of our freedoms away. Most of the time it’s just an illusion. Both groups would make changes that some may feel take away freedom(s).
But this Understanding is not about someone else. It’s about “us.” It’s about “us” taking away the freedom of “others.” Or, to put it another way, it’s about “us” not allowing “others” the same freedoms that “we” enjoy. “True freedom means the absence of the need to control others, to dominate them.” I see this a lot. Especially when it comes to biblical interpretation and theology. I remember back in the day, when we were heavily involved with a Charismatic church, one of the big things were little books by some big preachers. These books had titles like, “Twelve Steps to Prosperity,” “Ten Keys to Healing,” and “Sixteen Steps for Studying the Bible for All Its Worth,” ad nauseum. There were a lot of us (and I do me a lot) who read those books in earnest. We just couldn’t get enough! Every time a new one would come out, there was quite a buzz in the church. Sometimes during our annual revival meetings, an author from one of those books would come and speak and we’d all buy more books. And then we would try to replicate the lives in the book. To mold our lives into the same type of life exemplified in the book and in the life of it’s author.
For some of us, those books were helpful. But for most of us, all we did was spend money we really couldn’t spare and help the writer get wealthier. This is because we were taking what god did for someone else and, thinking that god must do the same things or work the same ways with everyone, and tried to make it fit into our own lives. But it didn’t work. We replaced our own relationships with god with trying to live a carbon copy life of someone else’s relationship with god. In a very real way, those little books were actually taking away the freedom of others.
Today, we can witness this removal or denial of freedom on all sorts of fronts. Whether it’s not allowing LGBT people get married or grant them access to a dying partner or taking away a woman’s right to her own health choices. And in both cases, not allowing these people lead in any kind of official position in our churches.
The other side of the coin is that we view freedom as something that it’s not. My freedom should not come at the cost of someone else’s freedom. I shouldn’t flaunt what I feel I can do in front of others who feel like they can’t. And, if I knowingly do so, according to Paul in Romans 14, I’m sinning against god and that person.
Freedom, as I see it in this Understanding, is about freeing myself from my own limitations and granting me permission to serve others. I’m free to put myself aside and put the other ahead of me. It’s about being who I am at the deepest level. It’s about being authentic. And allowing others to be authentic, too. This type of freedom is costly. Those who like to think they’re always right, that their way of doing things is the only way (and therefore the only way god does things), will not like this type of freedom. In fact, some people can’t even wrap their minds around this type of freedom. Being free to be all that god wants us to be is a scary thing for those types of people. Just by us being true to ourselves and god, we push back on their way of thinking. Not in a forceful, “in your face” kind of way (though, that does sometimes happen). No, it’s more of just us being who we are that troubles some people. Freedom does that sometimes.
And sometimes (most of the time) it’s so bloody hard! I have to constantly put aside my selfish desires. There are plenty of days that I don’t feel like serving people! I don’t want to put others ahead of me. I want to be first, dammit! I don’t want to be last. I get so tired of it! But then, an image of Jesus comes to my mind. The sacrifices he made on behalf of all creation - not only in his brutal torture and murder, but also in his service to others - must have been exhausting. And we know that this is true. There were times when Jesus was just tired of it all (see, for example, Matthew 17.17 and parallels) and when he just didn’t want to do what was needed (see Matthew 26.39 and parallels). But in each case, he set aside what he wanted and became truly free.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC