Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Some Assorted Thoughts on Freedom

I've been thinking about freedom recently--perhaps because our country is just about to celebrate our Declaration of Independence. I've been meditating particularly on the way our search for freedom in the United States connects with Jesus's words in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free
I'll keep my blog entry unsystematic, but two things have come to mind. First of all, although we can hear this as a generalizable promise about abstract truth, it's really about a  relational truth. It's the truth of relationship, not of mathematics. Put in a question: how do we relate to the living God? Jesus offers us freedom when we are in relationship with the Living God.

Secondly, freedom here is not what we so often think as liberty or independence. It is not freedom from; instead it is freedom for. It not solely to be independent from external constraints, but the capacity to do what is right. Two citations help me on this, first from the ever-witty, G. K. Chesterton, who reminds us that being only free from may, in the end, make us less human:
Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump; you may be freeing him from being a camel.
And the second from Peter Marshall, who, I think, sets the the right tone and direction. It's a fitting summary statement, fitting enough that I think I'll just close with it.
May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.


Jeff L said...

Interesting how Christian freedom resembles the "positive liberty" discussed by political philosophers such as Isaiah Berlin. If I understand their definition correctly, positive liberty is the freedom to do that which makes us fully, truly human. The great insight of Christianity is that only with relationship with God can we have the freedom to be fully human.

Anonymous said...

I like this, Greg. And just as our freedom to do right as a free people has cost the lives of thousands over the years; our right to be free for God cost the Son of God everything. Both thoughts are humbling.

M Fitzpatrick said...

Beautiful post, Greg. I love how you follow the thread of relationality to see where it leads. Freedom is not license, it is empowerment towards the good. Let us relate to each other in freedom!