Thursday, May 04, 2006


Freedom and Love

Jesus says, "Here are your manumission papers," and hands me the papers. At first they're dead black, but a wash of red passes through and they turn pure white. "Go, and sin no more."

Peter, Paul and Mary sing about "No easy walk to freedom." The song is all about the usual icons of freedom and the difficulties they faced, but has nothing to say about how freedom is prosecuted among normal people. What does it mean to be set free? What does it mean to live free? The people who espouse these ideals usually seem to be about as free as a knight dressed in armor, who can't even get onto his horse without help. They also take great umbrage with those people who don't agree with their particular shape of freedom.

You can take a slave out of the pen. Now, how does the slave learn to live? You can set the prisoner free but his whole internal economy is based on that of the prison. Now all the rules have changed. Who will teach him to live in a world that is said to be free but is in truth nearly as binding as the one inside the walls?

Paul described himself as a slave of Christ. His life doesn't look like that of the usual slave. Something is different about Jesus' mastership, and it won't fit easily into words. The only way to learn it is to do it, and that's as frightening a prospect as that first day outside for the long-term prisoner.

God knows this. He knows that being washed in the blood of the Lamb is the essential first step. Without that he has no access to the lost soul. Once washed, though, the soul is white as the Lamb Himself, and God can now live within that fragile envelope. Change must be done carefully, with a long-term plan. God is a master of this.

Step one is basic: saving a life. Avert the course from the rocks, the cliff-edge, a thousand forms of self-immolation. "Don't jump," he says. "I am your salvation, and better days are coming." It's hard to believe, which is why God constantly whispers this to me. I don't really believe in hope, but that voice keeps me going and every once in a while I see a glimmer of something that could become a hint of better things coming.

But, oh, what if it's another lie? Hoping in hope. I've fallen for that too many times to count. But this hope has an intangible reality, more solid than anything else in my world for all that it can't be seen. Look back, look at the Cross, and there's the proof.

Love. God loved me first, for his own reasons, and continues to pour out his love onto me regardless of my response. Most of the time I try to hide but some of it gets through anyway. The example shines behind and casts light forward into the future, illuminating the way ahead. Love is God's way. Not that I understand it well, but I know the examples and from those I begin to see something of God's heart.

It's a heartless Christianity we've grown up with. Duty, expectation, a loveless mechanical repetition of rote acts and if you don't agree with our particular interpretation of those acts you're going to Hell. That's just another set of lies in a world full of them. Do you really want to know the truth? Ask God. He will teach. Shedding the preconceptions, those of the world and those of your own, is very hard work. I'm always amazed at my tenacity in holding onto the corpse of an old, dead way of life. Dead, yes, but familiar.

So, love is the start and freedom seems to be the core of action. Most of the world's ways are designed to reduce freedom. God reintroduces freedom and then asks "What are you going to do?"
"Well, I'm going to hide under this rock because I'm scared."
"You're not going to have much fun under there."
"That's OK. I can do without fun."
So, God waits. His acts don't change. His love rains down. Oh, so very slowly a heart kept in stone begins to grow in freedom and the square walls get in the way.

God's ways are very interesting. If you listen to people, the word freedom is instantly followed by words like duty, debt and should. God gives love, and he gives freedom, and it's like rain on a mountainside. At first it's bare dirt and all the rain soaks in and disappears. People get frustrated with the length of time taken, so they do things like dig up the soil in the guise of "cultivation" and they add fertilizers, soil amendments, and they stand there chanting "Grow!" God knows that the rain itself is the thing. Love Himself will saturate the ground, and then the ground will freely give what it has. He plants today, waters tomorrow and next year, or 10 years later, something comes up that is far more beautiful than the hothouse creations.

I'd rather see one pasque flower, low, lavender, lovely, growing in the forest floor in the springtime than a whole basketful of a florist's seemingly vibrant roses. One is a free gift, the other a duty.

Something is different about Jesus' mastership, and it won't fit easily into words.

Thanks for clearing up some of the mess that is in my head...Thanks
Such good words, Larry. I spent very little time in church as a kid..and the Bible is still new to me, I look at it with a child's truly has nothing to do with the religiosity that has shackled so many.
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