“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” That’s what Janice Joplin sang. But is that what freedom is? Not according to the timeless Faith. Freedom, for the wisdom of the Faith, has everything to do with actually disciplining my passions in such a way that I discover and become who I was made to be in the first place.
Sadly, in our culture, “freedom” has been misdefined as “being able to do what I want.” But everyone who embraces that kind of “freedom” ends up being a slave to their passions. God has gifted us the wisdom of the Faith to set us truly free AND to share that freedom with everyone around us. Imagine a culture, a society, that isn’t tearing itself apart over the wrong definition of “freedom.” And now think about how you can truly embrace such a vision of freedom and share it with your friends, family, and neighbors!
Look at our Lesson today from Romans 9:18-33:
Brethren, God has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘my beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence upon the earth with rigor and dispatch.” And as Isaiah predicted, “if the Lord of hosts had not left us children, we would have fared like Sodom and been made like Gomorrah.” What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall; and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
God has planned all of human history to give every human, every culture, and every language an opportunity to come back to communion with our Creator through Jesus Christ. What the People of the Nation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob missed, we who did not have the advantages of the Law to teach us have now been, by grace and mercy, offered a place in the Body of Christ, Who is the True Israel, fulfilling all the promises God made to our father Abraham. God has accomplished and brought to full harvest the seeds of His love planted in every age, language, and tribe so that No One is left as an “outsider.” In fact, the spirit of “exclusivity” and “privilege” has all been drowned in the sea of God’s love for every person ever made! And He has done this miracle through His Son, our Lord Jesus. This reorientation towards true freedom and communion with God is NORMAL Orthodoxy!
Today, where is your mind captured by the false notion of “this only belongs to our tribe?” Where does the insidious lie of “we alone deserve God’s special favor” hide in your heart, your actions, and your attitude? It is time for this false delusion to die because God has loved His world so much that He has sent His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall be saved! And I mean “whosoever!” In fact, I’ll end with this: If the Faith is only able to be embraced by only certain peoples, that is not the Christian faith established in our Orthodox Church! It isn’t Orthodoxy at all. No, our Orthodox faith belongs to and is the birthright of every human being who has ever lived. That is the amazing Good News of our precious Orthodox Church. Forever! Turns out we were all made to be Orthodox on Purpose! We were all made to be truly FREE!
P.S. O Lord of Glory, You are the Stone the builders rejected, and that very Stone has become an unavoidable confrontation to every person. This confrontation with the delusion of our prideful selfishness will always make us face the uncomfortable Truth that we MUST embrace humility, generosity, and love if we are ever going to be truly human. You have given us the eternal wisdom of Your Church guided by the Holy Spirit to lead us out of this self-imposed slavery and into the freedom of being like You. Please help me daily choose to be free and You have made me be! Amen.