Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
—from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence
Dependent is a bad word in our culture denoting weakness and subservience. Independence, which our nation celebrates this week, is strength and freedom. Who wouldn’t choose the latter? Well, Christians, for one! When Joshua finally led the Israelites across the Jordan and into the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness and having before that been in bondage to Pharoah in Egypt for generations, he did not say, “Isn’t it good finally and completely to be free?” No, he realized that the true choice is which “god” we choose to serve. The first commandment given to Moses 40 years earlier on Mt. Sinai after escaping through the Red Sea was clear about priorities. The center of our lives is not to be any other god than the Lord God who brought us out of the land of Egypt and later raised Jesus from the dead. That one, and most especially not the god of self.
I think that as Americans we often misunderstand freedom to be “I do whatever I want”—or as one of our pre-school children used to declare when in a particularly belligerent mood, “You’re not the boss of me,” and “Don’t say me no!” That someone is “not the boss of us” is the god of individualism’s grotesque delusion. We are beholden to the God who creates us, redeems us, and sustains us, or we are slaves to the god of sinful selfishness. The daily choice is which master, not if there will be a master.
Martin Luther spoke eloquently in his treatise on The Freedom of a Christian with classic dialectical (in tension) Lutheran theology. He proposed that at once “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone.” In Christ, we’re no longer ultimately slaves to sin, death, or any human institution (our freedom from), but in Christ we are free to choose to find fulfillment, purpose, and joy in serving our neighbor (our freedom to). Christ sets us free from the ultimate consequences of that sin and death so that in getting outside of our worry about our ultimate salvation we are free to serve. For the Christian, freedom can’t finally be about me, but about us. The two great truths of the universe still hold. 1) There is a God. 2) I’m not it.
May you embrace the gifts of both political and spiritual freedom as the basis for your choices about which master(s) you will serve.