Some thoughts on Freedom
‘In my anguish I cried to the Lord and he set me free.’ Psalm 118:5.
“Freedom”, few words resonate as vividly as that word. Everyone loves freedom. Here in Ireland a popular Irish-language girls’ name, Saoirse, literally means freedom. In 2016 we will celebrate – and argue passionately about – the centenary of the revolutionary event in 1916 that ultimately led to Irish “freedom”. People right across the political spectrum support freedom, they promise it and they claim ownership over it. Freedom from foreign domination, freedom from the state, and then freedom from others, freedom to do what you want, freedom to stop others doing what they want; ultimately freedom to make the word itself mean whatever you want.
‘Jesus – it is only in your will that I am free’ sings Belfast singer-songwriter Robin Mark in ‘Jesus, All For Jesus’. This is, for me, one of the tantalizing paradoxes at the centre of Christian faith, one that that makes no sense and yet makes perfect sense. When I became a Christian on Easter Sunday almost two years ago – relatively late in life – one of my strongest intuitions was an aching desire to just relax into the will of God, finally. To know that delicate dance of free will and God’s will that can only be lived and is never perfect, but you keep on trying, in freedom.
‘I will walk in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.’ Psalm 119:45.
What is this endlessly fresh sort of freedom, this freedom in Christ? It is freedom from dull, arbitrary convention – freedom from the gnawing selfishness that says there is a higher power and you’re it – freedom from the mainstream myth of individual limitlessness when a mature sense of boundary is so often what shapes and strengthens a person’s character – freedom from a cultural mindset that so often loudly fetishes the word freedom and yet rejoices in dreary determinism: economic, biological, psychological: it’s not my fault, your honour, the genes made me do it.
Messy, awkward, beautiful, true and eternal – freedom.
“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5: 13-14