Perfect Freedom

March 20, 2007

What is freedom?

I’ve been struck lately, after coming off of a very unstructured spring break, with the idea that as Christians we are not free– that we give up freedom when we become Christians.

I have felt that way so many times.  I have said to myself and others “if only I could do whatever I wanted I would go live in the Carribean” or something like that.  (My therapist says I really wouldn’t be happy with that for very long, but I’m not so sure.)  But I have always said in the next sentence, responding to the inevitable “Why don’t you go and do it then?” that I don’t do it because that is not who I am called to be.  To go and live that life would be, for me, in a sense inauthentic.

Is that a restriction on my freedom?  By acknowledging my divine authenticity– that I am created in the image of God, do I then necessarily close down some of my options?

I hope not.

When Ed Bacon (rector of All Saints Pasadena) speaks of freedom, as he does each Sunday when he opens his sermon, reminding us that God is our perfect freedom, he seems not to think we are limited but rather expanded by embracing our authenticity, by becoming Christians.

I want to find that place.  That makes intuitive sense to me- a loving creator should want freedom for his creation, not enslavement.

So how, then, do I work this out spiritually, ethically, and theologically?

The only answer I have that satisfies me is that God desires perfect freedom for us.  In our freedom we grow and learn.  Do we make mistakes?  Sure, but if we make them faithfully we also repent and apologize for them, learning in the process because we desire good as creatures of a good God.  Having a creation theology instead of a redemptive theology helps, I suppose.

It is in community where we must have this growth experience, this freedom.

But unfortunately, something happens in the community of humanity which prevents our perfect freedom.  We begin to play not to God’s expectations, but to each other’s.  Trying to please each other rather than God does not lead to freedom (mimetic desire).

Living in perfect freedom, then, is becoming independent enough to strive for good and the good life even when others are not with you while remaining dependent on the common life for growth and development, celebrating communal life.  It is developing self-assurance in authenticity and not forgetting who God made you to be even if others do not see it.

In short, perfect freedom is coming to the realization that you are deeply loved by the God who created you– just as you are.  The only response to that realization is to want a good life– to do good and make a difference.

We make choices, but they move us towards freedom as Christians, not away from it.

j

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