On August 28, 1963, Baptist minister and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the mall in Washington, D.C. In it he uttered the equally famous line “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.” These words still stir my heart today.
Some try to reduce freedom to mere temporal political “rights.” Others seem to suggest that freedom means license to behave in any way they wish. Both of these notions of freedom are too small! And the current, seemingly incessant, and eternally multiplying number of “groups” demanding their “freedom” prove that a small vision of true freedom is shallow and, ultimately, unfulfilling. It doesn’t satisfy the God-shaped hole in the heart of humanity. Nor can it.
But listen to today’s Epistle lesson from St. Paul to the Romans: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Read the whole pericope in Romans 7:14-8:2!
True freedom, the message of the faith about “freedom,” is a freedom based on something deeper than political “rights,” social acceptance, or even the eternally shifting human notions of “equality.” While all of these “movements” may have, at their heart, the good motivations of freedom and justice, they can’t help but devolve into smaller and even petty notions of “I want power too.” And you can tell they are unsatisfying when these groups and others seem to forever be demanding more.
But the freedom St. Paul talks about is a freedom that flows from inside out rather than from outside in. This freedom is the necessary prerequisite to any reflection of freedom in politics, society, and the world. A man who is a slave in his heart can get all the political and social rights he can win and he still remains a slave.
Notice St. Paul contends that “the law of Christ Jesus has set me free” from the two major causes of the slavery of the heart: Sin and Death.
Sin, which is missing the mark; NOT breaking the “rules,” enslaves a person to his habits and behaviors. Sin is the misuse of something good. I told the teens at summer camp that hearing confession is challenging not because of what I heard but because sin is always boring and uncreative. It’s the same thing over and over again. Sin enslaves a life to the mundane and merely earthly. Sin deadens the soul to the eternal joys of freedom. Sin enslaves. The Good News of Christ offers us freedom from sin. Christ gives us the grace, the power, the freedom to finally HIT the bullseye of being like our Maker Who loves us and gave Himself for us!
Death, and the fear of death, enslaves a person into the small living of survival rather than the freedom of eternal life with God. Most of my actions motivated by the fear of my own mortality lead to selfishness and short-sighted choices. I gather all kinds of “things” around me to comfort me in my fear of my own mortality. I even collect people around me for my own selfish reasons because they make “ME” “feel” better. But persons weren’t meant to live in fear. Now that Christ has destroyed death by dying and rising again, the fear of death is a self-imposed slavery that only proves I still haven’t embraced the Good News of Pascha as really true!
Today, precious friend, you were made for true freedom. This freedom has been won for you at the price of our Lord humbling Himself and making Himself small enough to fit in the world He created. Living His life in obedience to the will of the Father. Ascending the wood of the cross as our great Champion to defeat sin, death, and Satan, for us. Lying in a tomb, and taking His body back up again at the resurrection. Ascending to the right hand of the Father to show you what your true destiny is to be. All of this to give you real freedom. What possible reason could you have for accepting any counterfeit to that true freedom?
Today, are you really free? Would you like to be?