What is Freedom?

DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:

There has been much acrimony, and very little communication, about “freedom” the past 16 days.

I read a letter in the Star-Telegram two days ago that concluded: “If we continue on our current path, your grandchildren will be wards of the state. Your great grandchildren will then be servants of the state.”

For this gentleman (whom I do not know, so am just inferring from his letter), the freedom to be valued and guarded most is freedom from government—freedom from a government mandated health care system, freedom from taxes and government regulation, freedom from the dependence that he believes comes from government entitlements.

But for my clients, the freedom that is desired most is freedom from poverty—freedom from hunger, from chronic, untreated disease, from violence, from hopelessness and from exclusion.

We might be aware that choosing a freedom for ourselves as citizens through the democratic process, involves a loss of freedom for others. It seems that the gentleman who wrote the letter would choose freedom from government mandated health insurance at the cost to many, and maybe even to himself, of being trapped in a treatable but untreated illness. You pay a price for the freedoms I choose successfully, and I pay a price for those you choose successfully. If we acknowledged that to one another, along with our dependence upon and duty to one another, we might be communicating more, and insulting one another less.

Paul had a great deal to say about freedom, from which we all could learn. Freedom was in many ways the essence of his gospel.


“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3.17

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters…” Galatians 5.13.

“But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Jesus Christ, so that they might enslave us…”    Galatians 2.4.

“Formerly, when you did not know, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods…How can you turn back to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?” Galatians 4.8-9

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5.1

Sunday, I invite us to consider Paul’s good news of freedom, how his experience of freedom applies to us, what you and I yearn and need to free of, and how we obtain that freedom. As we shall see, Paul wrote about much, much more than freedom from the consequences of our own sins.

Can we be free of the “weal and beggarly elemental spirits” around us, of those beings and institutions that pretend to be god? Can we obtain the freedom to be authentically ourselves? Just me, just you, standing naked as single souls before and with God? Can we be free of what Paul called the “elemental spirits,” the “beings that by nature are not gods,” whatever their pretense and claims? I mean, can we ever really be free?

Let me leave you with this until Sunday. Flannery O’Connor was Thomas Merton’s favorite fiction writers, because of all the wounded, quirky characters that appear in her work and because she understood the gospel so very well, an understanding that pervaded her writing. In one of O’Connor’s novels, The Violent Bear it Away, old Moses Tarwater yearns for freedom from those whom he believes are trying to control him and his mind and soul, setting themselves up as gods. He says to his great nephew Francis Marion Tarwater: “I saved you to be free, to be your own self. Not some thought, some piece of information inside some school teacher’s head.” Later in the book, his nephew Francis says: ” You can’t just say NO. You got to do NO…You got to show you’re not going to do one thing by doing another.”

Your brother, Brooks


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