Good conversation yesterday evening about freedom.
In many ways it was a return to this quote-
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
In a previous post I focused on the ‘truth’ thing- but there is also this word ‘freedom’. What does it mean to be free? What did Jesus mean by freedom?
The traditional evangelical view is that Jesus was meaning freedom from the consequences of our sin. Except that the context of the passage from John’s gospel seems to suggest that rather than trying to solve the ‘problem of sin’ Jesus was trying to solve the ‘problem of the sin police’. Check out the full passage- coming as it does in the wake of how he brilliantly turns aside the traps the Pharisees set for him- and how he focuses instead on the potential collateral damage of their theological/political debate- a woman who was accused of adultery.
So in this discussion, Jesus is interested in freeing people from the hard unyielding unloving religion. Freedom in the context then is- what? No religion? I think there is a strong argument for this- but certainly I think we can say a different kind of religion- one where the outer person is less important than the heart of the matter, and where the weak and poor are always to be preferred to the powerful and rich. A kind of religion that turns the tables on the easy assumptions and compromises made by the movers and shakers of our times.
In housegroup the other night we listened to Aung San Suu Kyi speaking about obtaining freedom (One of the Reith Lectures- you can listen again here.) This was an inspiring account of lives lived in the very face of oppression. For Suu Kyi and many of her colleagues, freedom is not an abstract concept (even though she speaks too about freedom of the Spirit) but is a real place of longing, seen through Burmese prison bars. She described the courage of those who continue to work for freedom from oppression- how it was not the absence of fear that motivated them, but rather a sufficiency of courage in the presence of fear.
But we in the west, we take this kind of freedom for granted. We often move onto discussions about an extension of this freedom into all sorts of casual consumer choices- the right to a good holiday experience, or the freedom to chose what time our hospital appointment should be.
Which kind of leaves me wondering whether the kind of freedom we need is not physical- but spiritual.
Perhaps freedom is not just about the bringing down of a wall, or the overthrowing of a dictator- even though these events might be ones well worth working and hoping for.
Rather freedom is another one of these things that we discover on the journey- it is not an end in itself, but in seeking to live a life according to the rules of the New Kingdom, we find that the shackles tend to loosen and fall away.