Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,’ sang Janis Joplin, which is a great lyric, but one that’s been sorely tested this year. As we lost the ability to go to work, to school, to cinemas and sporting grounds, to our families – well, it seems like we lost a lot, but it sure didn’t make us feel any more free.
Which we might have understood, but still resented! We treasure our freedoms, and shudder when we think of life in more repressive nations. And rightly so: Jesus teaches that our goal, our purpose, is to be free.
Or to be more precise, he says, to be made free… and that might offend you. Does he really mean to imply that we aren’t free already? Is he really that ignorant of the human condition? For someone who’s meant to be a wise teacher, you’d think he would know something about free will.
Philosophers love to argue about the reality of free will, but the rest of us take it for granted. We can choose what clothes to wear in the morning when we get up, what to eat for breakfast, and when to get on with our day. It’s obvious.
But then again… what about those who are required to wear a particular uniform? Or those who are diabetic? Or those who have to run the kids up to school in time for the start of the day? The truth is, our freedom is limited, sometimes by our own prior choices, and sometimes by the realities of this universe. None of us are free to float a metre above the ground at all times!
So then, perhaps Jesus means us to examine how limited our freedom is. And here, if we’re honest, we might notice that we struggle with our bad habits, or our temper, or … our deaths. True freedom, the Bible tells us, is the ability to be truly ourselves, to be all God has made us to be. Ironically, and unexpectedly, we find Jesus gives us this as we hand over the reins of our lives to him. It costs us nothing, because we aren’t really in control anyway. But he doesn’t lock us down – rather, he frees us up. Something you’re free to think about!