Tag Archives: Freedom

Freedom


We keep our cat Ira indoors for a reason:  there are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood and we want him to be safe.  He does not understand this.  He believes our rules are unreasonable and unnecessarily restrictive  He is sure he can fend for himself and that he does not need us to take care of him.  Of course, he is always quite willing to eat the food we offer him, but he never shows gratitude for it.  He acts as if we somehow owe it to him.  And he resents our keeping him in the “prison” of our home.

Ira has run out the door a million times without incident.  But last week, he ran out the door for the million and first time, and disappeared.  We searched for him for two days.  It sleeted.  The wind was blowing cold and merciless.  The temperature dropped to 20 degrees.  We worried and hunted for him, calling his name, going door to door, handing out pictures of him.  And at last, on the third night, we found him.

He was trapped 60 feet up in a tree.  That’s like the height of a six-story building.  This tree had been trimmed back within an inch of its life and had almost no branches between the ground and the crotch of three limbs where Ira had settled himself.  He was so high up, you could barely make out his pathetic little face as he cried for help.  The only way he could have had the initiative to climb that high was if a dog were chasing him.  Well, we told him so, didn’t we?  Not understanding the reasons for our rules did not help him escape the consequences of disobedience.

We called the fire department.  They did not have a ladder tall enough to reach Ira, and the nearby power lines made it unsafe to use the bucket lift.  They soon gave up and went home.  Next we called a professional tree trimmer.  By now it was nearly midnight, and he was unable to help Ira, either.  The next day, we found an animal rescue service who sent out a man with their longest ladder.  That ladder was almost 20 feet short of where Ira sat.  We were getting desperate.  After four days of sitting in that tree, Ira was dehydrated and hungry, as well as in danger of freezing to death.  At last, we found a man who could climb trees using a sling and harness and spiked boots.  He climbed up that tree, putting himself in danger of falling, and rescued our silly cat.

What’s the moral of this tale?  Romans chapter 6 tells us that we are all slaves to what we obey.  Ira obeyed his own instincts, believing that ignoring our restrictions would give him greater freedom.  He ended up stuck in one position, completely alone, without food or water, and exposed to the elements,  helpless to even move an inch in any direction.  If he had been willing to obey US, he would have had everything a cat would want–free run of the entire nice, warm house; plenty of food and water; and people who love him.

Doing what I want looks like fun.  It looks like freedom.  But freedom from what?  Freedom from God means freedom from all the good things He wants to give us.  Freedom to do what we want can look attractive, but can lead to horrifying circumstances!  Ira thought he knew more about how life works than we do.  He thought that fulfilling his own desires would give him happiness.  He had to learn the hard way that we actually do know what’s best for him.  I had to learn that lesson, too; I learned it well enough that I never want to be free from God again.

 

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Declaration of Interdependence


Yes, dear readers, it is time for my annual, controversial Fourth of July blog entry.  As usual, please keep in mind that I love my country and am glad I was born in a nation in which I am free to express myself without fear of retaliation from the government (although retaliation from my readers at times resembles a free-for-all. . . .)

It’s been too easy for Americans to forget, or ignore, the fact that the War for Independence was not fought to secure individual rights and freedoms but national sovereignty.  All English citizens already had the rights and freedoms we hold dear in America. That was why the colonists were literally up in arms about the abuse by the government they were receiving–as Englishmen, they expected the rights guaranteed to them by the Magna Carta to be honored and upheld. (“Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to . . . all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity. . . .”–preamble to Magna Carta, 1215 a.d.) If the colonists had been patient and persevered, their rights would have certainly been restored without having to fight a war (see Canada).  As it is, they severed ties with the government that was meant to defend their rights and was not doing so.  The Declaration of Independence was a document proclaiming the independence of a nation, a group of people, from another nation; not a carte blanc proclaiming the independence of every individual from every other individual on earth.

We were created equal, yes, and endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  But we were never created to be independent.  God never meant for us to live as islands in seas of opposing humanities.  We were meant to live in harmony and interdependence, working together towards common good.  I believe—I hope– our founding fathers understood this, and that their commitment to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was not at all about petty, personal liberties but about the people of America as a whole. Because when each person in a group conducts himself independently, thinking only of his own fulfillment and happiness without a thought of what is best for all involved, the result is . . . . America as we see it today.  Chaotic, ignorant, dangerous, frightening.

What’s even more frightening is that the American church has bought into this idea of “rugged individualism” as well.  I am not saying that God does not love us and deal with us as individuals, because I know that is not the case.  God loves each of us as His creation, individually.  But He did not create us to be independent of one another.  He created us in groups from the beginning: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  He placed us in families; in communities; in people-groups; in nations.  He did this deliberately, because that is how He meant for us to function–together.

Sometimes God does chose special individuals to work His will, but it is never to the benefit of the chosen person.  God chose Abraham, not to be a great man, but to father a great nation. He chose Joseph, not to bless Joseph, but to save His people.  He chose Moses, not to bless Moses (Moses did not want this blessing, bless his heart), but again, to save His people.  God honors and blesses those He chooses, but He does not choose them for their own good, but for the good of the people.

Is there any one person whom we honor as an  individual who did not do whatever he did to deserve honor for the benefit of many?   We admire our founding fathers for what they did for America–for US–not for what they gained for themselves.  What did they gain for themselves?  Heartache.  Trouble.  Contention.  Loss of personal freedom.  Yes, I said it.  They gave themselves to the cause of political freedom to the detriment of their own, personal freedom.  Washington wanted nothing more than to retire to his plantation and be a farmer, living quietly for the rest of this life.  He was coerced into becoming the first president, instead.  He was a good president–and he really didn’t enjoy it.

And how about our church founding fathers?  When one thinks of the early church, I’m sure the name of Paul springs immediately to mind.  He was probably the most successful missionary ever in church history.  Everything he did, was for the church body.  What he received in return was imprisonment, sorrow, death.

I’ve been learning a lot of late about how self-centered the American church (a part of American culture) has become.  It’s disheartening, to say the least, especially since it’s become such an integral part of our thinking that few seem to be aware that we our thinking is so faulty.  “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” is a common tool for convincing people of their need for God.  This is a true saying; please don’t think I don’t believe this.  But Americans take this differently than they should.  They take this to mean that God has a plan to make each person’s individual life a rousing success, filled with personal happiness and fulfillment.  I’m sorry, but you have only to look around you at the real lives of real Christians to know that this is not the case.  I’m not saying that God does not have our best interests at heart–He certainly does.  But His best interests are so much bigger, so much more all-encompassing than we can ever imagine.  He sees the bigger picture–the picture that includes every other person alive on the planet at this time and every person coming after us; each individual life fits into the picture to make it complete.  Americans like to see each person as an individual picture unto himself.  That is a grave departure from reality, and does so much damage to society as a whole, and to the church most of all.

Here’s an example of the Scriptures twisted by American thinking into something it was never intended to be: Romans 8:28.  “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.”  American Christians want this to mean that everything that happens to each individual will work to that individual’s advantage–eventually.  So, if this promise is true, every person’s life will, eventually, work out to that individual’s happiness and fulfillment.  And that’s why Paul lived a long and ultimately happy life, retiring to a comfortable home with cable TV and a lovely pension plan.  That’s why George Washington was able to fulfill his life-long dream of settling down on his farm and raising his family in peace.  That’s why Martin Luther King died an elderly, satisfied man, having seen his dream accomplished in his own lifetime.  Oh, but wait!  That’s not what happened, is it?  These men accomplished much, yes.  They did great things and lived great lives–for the benefit of the people they were raised up by God to serve.  Look at that verse from Romans again.  Look at the pronouns in it.  Those are PLURAL pronouns.  Plural, not singular.  We are not meant to live our lives in individual solitude.  We are meant to live our lives for the benefit of all.

We may not all be intended for huge tasks like those accomplished by Moses or Joseph or Paul.  But we are each a part of the whole, and we each have our place in the picture.  We can wail about not being personally happy or fulfilled.  Or we can rejoice in the differences we can make in the lives of others. We can be selfishly focused on our own individual comforts and desires; or we can feel the honor God does us in including us in His greater plan that expands over all time and space and impacts every other human being that ever existed, even if only in a modest way.  We are not alone in the universe, and we must never live our lives as if we were.  What we do influences so many other lives, for good or for evil, because we are a part of the whole.  This is true whether speaking of a nation or of the church body.  And this is a good thing.

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Pursuit of Freedom


Last Fourth of July, I posted a blog entitled “An American Tory”, which netted me a response unrivaled by anything I have written before or since! This tempted me to run a repeat, as I find the lack of dialog on my other blogs entries to be discouraging. Apparently one must be controversial in order to elicit interaction. But after much prayer, I feel led to go in another intellectual direction.

Freedom! This word always brings to mind the movie “Braveheart”, and William Wallace’s courageous, defiant, dying cry. The idea of freedom is a universal desire, one of the few things men and women are willing to give their lives to pursue. America is the land of the free, and I am sincerely grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. I am able to write whatever I wish in this forum without fear of government officials breaking down the door and dragging me off to prison. I worship God as I choose with whomever I choose, openly. I can criticize the powers that be with impunity. But did America originate these ideals? Not really. Our forefathers brought these ideals with them from Europe, and most Westernized countries, (these we consider to be modern and civilized) also enjoy these freedoms. We were simply the first to create a brand-new country from scratch implementing these ideals from the beginning of our history. That is what makes us unique, and our contribution to the other countries of the world who have followed our example is important and should be recognized. But we must not arrogantly disregard the courage of those who came before us and upon whose shoulders our founding fathers stood: ordinary men and women who fought against tyranny and formed the radical idea of government by the people and for the people. Even to state that we succeeded where they did not is more than I dare to say. Democratic Athens was successful in its time; England had its fits and starts of successful rule by law long before we came along. Our political freedom did last over a hundred years before it began to go into decline, leading us into our present state of affairs. I suppose that’s a better track record than many countries have.

I desire political freedom for all the peoples of God’s earth. But the problem with political freedom is that it isn’t enough. We are free to speak and write and worship as we please, yes. We are free to pursue our own interests without government interference We are free from governmental tyranny (for the moment. . . .) But we are trapped by our own ideology. Government “by the people” means that the people rule, and the people as a whole are tyrants. They are worse than tyrants: they are ignorant, poorly educated, emotionally-driven tyrants who form opinions and vote according to what makes sense to them instead of seeking the truth of a given issue. Unfortunately, what makes sense to an uneducated populace doesn’t really make sense. Americans demand the right to be heard, but at the same time demand the right to be free from responsibility. If we are to rule (and that’s what a democracy is about) we are responsible to educate ourselves as fully as possible in order to be capable of making good decisions. Instead, Americans seem to desire to be free from education. How long has it been since sincere scholasticism was a desirable trait in our public schools? Those few students who still desire to learn are ridiculed and debased by their peers, by our media, even by many parents. Those who spend their time in study are said to “have no life.” American students are encouraged to be popular, to excel in sports or other useless pastimes, and to scrape by in their studies. “Get a life” to an American means “entertain yourself”, not “pursue useful goals.”

A poll taken this weekend found that 44% of Americans do not know what we are celebrating today. How is it possible that nearly half of the people who are running this country do not know the meaning of the Fourth of July? Thank God true freedom does not come from government, but from above! Only God can free us from our self-centered laziness, our ignorance, our sinfulness. May God help us and make us truly free!

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