The old Janis Joplin song declares “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Is that your definition of freedom? Nowadays the word “freedom” is usually used in the context of politics or revolution. And folks have reduced the definition of freedom to mean “doing what I want to do.” Of course, this is too small a definition, and we see this fault every time some group gets the power to enact their political agenda and watch as it always (and I mean “always”) comes up short and disappointing.
But we humans have an innate desire to be free. We want to not be confined to this or that place, or restriction, or even relationships. We want to make sure we know where all the “exits” are in our lives. This desire for “freedom” often gets warped in our lives due to our spiritual blindness and broken human will. We see this desire for freedom morph into an inability to commit or embrace timeless wisdom meant to help us. We wrestle against “authority” in an attempt to escape the confines of that authority. We want to be free! And that isn’t a bad thing, but without the healing of repentance, where our freedom is gained THROUGH slavery to Christ, we will constantly be our own worst enemy! And, consequently, we won’t be free!
Look at today’s Gospel Lesson on this AfterFeast of the Theophany of Christ in John 10:39-42:
At that time, the Jews tried to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there He remained. And many came to Him; and they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
Our Lord’s Coming and His Baptism inaugurate a “new” reality, a new “Normal” for the world. And this new reality is a threat to the “old” ways, the “old” religions, and the “old” power structure. So that very structure seeks to stifle and “arrest” this threat to its power. Makes sense. Extinction is hard on dinosaurs! But there is no turning back! God has become flesh! There is no “unringing” this bell! This event has set in motion the final act in God’s plan to truly liberate us humans and give us the one escape we must enter if we are to ever be truly free! This cosmic shift is simply inescapable for everyone, even for those who stubbornly still insist on the “old” ways. There is no going back to a time when there is no Jesus Christ. Even the rebellions against Christ are tactical admissions that He has to be dealt with!
But make no mistake, this freedom is scary because it really does undo all our ideas about what freedom, and what normal really is. The people in the Lord’s day recognized this in Christ and testified that “everything that John said about this man was true.” He really is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. He really is mightier than John and we really are unworthy to even untie His shoes. He really is the One Who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and makes us humans a fit habitation for God. He really does have His “winnowing fork in his hands” and He really is dividing the wheat from the chaff (see Matthew 3:12). The appearance of Christ means the end of humanity’s “kindergarten” age and a challenge to grow beyond the “religions” of the past into the “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) that Christ inaugurates to give us the ultimate freedom to finally become what we were made to be! It’s the ultimate freedom. It’s the ultimate escape! It is the New Normal!
Let’s face it, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, we have to admit that real freedom scares us! To be truly free automatically means to be completely responsible, and we live in an age where avoiding responsibility seems to be more important than anything else. This fear of an honest embrace of the consequences of our choices is the ultimate symptom of immaturity and slavery. If we remain a “slave” then “it isn’t my fault” and we can childishly hide from responsibility. The only problem is, dear one, you were not made for slavery. You were made for true Freedom.
Today, has your definition of freedom been transformed by the Faith? Does your relationship with God, your “slavery” to Him, set you free from the “old” desires to “be your own boss” and to
“have it your way?” Are you discovering that that old way of living only deepens your slavery to your own selfish ways? It’s time to join the Lord in escaping “from their hands;” the “hands” of doubt, fear, ignorance, and greed, and into the true freedom of being liberated from all those false identities to the true identity of a child of God. It’s time to refresh your baptismal vows and to constantly allow the freedom of Christ to make you a Normal Orthodox Christian!
P.S. “In the morning we are filled with Your mercy, O Lord, and we rejoice and delight in all of our days. Let us delight therefore even in the days that you make us lowly and for the years that we have seen evils. And look upon Your servants and upon Your works and lead their sons aright. And let the light of the Lord our God be upon us, and the works of our hands may You guide aright. Yea, the works of our hands may You guide aright.”