What is freedom? I mean real freedom. How does it feel? What is it like to be truly free?
Of course, there are some rousing clips from films about it.
Braveheart. “You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom?“
Robin Hood (Prince of Thieves). “The Sheriff calls us outlaws. But I say we are free. And one free man defending his home is more powerful… than ten hired soldiers.”
Freedom. Being at liberty. Unfettered. Unrestrained. Unhindered. Boundless. Free.
There are almost 100 Wikipedia pages about it. Songs, films, science, philosophy. It’s clearly pretty popular.
I was discussing freedom with some friends recently. We were chatting about whether or not Christians are free. I remembered a conversation I had some years ago with a student of mine. We were discussing Christian attitudes to sex. It took the ‘normal’ route for such discussions. Him raising the ‘so, do you believe in sex before marriage?’ issue. (I love the wording of that question – it amuses me every time). Me, responding with something along the lines of, ‘I think sex is something that’s special for marriage, not for any other relationship’. Him coming back (a little more boldly than some with whom I’ve had this conversation) with, ‘you’re not married, are you?’ (I was early twenties at the time). And so I dropped the bombshell. ‘No, I’m not married. Yes, I am a virgin’.
This didn’t really compute for a while. But once I’d managed to convince him that I was telling the truth, he switched seamlessly from disbelief to ridicule. It was hilarious to him that he’d found someone in their twenties who’d still not managed to ‘get any’ yet. And so I had to explain that this was a matter of perspective. If I were wandering through life desperate for sex but simply unable to find someone willing to oblige, then perhaps I was worthy of pity (or of his offering of ridicule). But for me, as someone who believed that sex was exclusively for marriage, to actually get to my wedding day without having sex was an achievement. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was inundated with offers). My faith didn’t restrict me and force me to live a boring life. It gave me freedom to live life as my creator intended. He thought my faith bound me. I know it frees me.
Jesus himself offered freedom. He echoed the words of Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…”
And I look at people like my student and see people trapped by society. Trapped by a skewed way of seeing things. A view that screams it is free, all the while holding people to ransom. I know that this, too, is a matter of perspective. Yet I yearn for people to discover true freedom that comes from giving yourself up to the only one who can truly bring liberty.
I’ll finish with a little illustration from that classic children’s game stuck-in-the-mud. You know the one? Someone’s ‘it’ and has to charge around catching everyone. When you’re caught, you stand still and hope that someone who is still running free will come and free you.
Are you running free? If not, the offer’s there. If you are, make sure you stay free, and make sure you help others.