THE REAL FREEDOM
Donald J. Godfred
And off to another ‘freedom year.’ Our nation celebrates this month our political freedom. For the past sixty three years we have been celebrating the 15th day of this month as our independence day on which we were freed from the British rule. But are we really free after sixty three years of freedom? Politically we may claim so. Constitutionally, we, the subjects, are entitled to enjoy freedom on many fronts. Do we enjoy so in real life?
No Absolute Freedom
The most important are freedom of religion, caste and tribe, and equal status and rights to every citizen. Aren’t the minority people still subjected by the majority? We couldn’t overcome poverty; nor win over the devils of untouchability, dowry system or superstition even among deep rooted believers. The list is endless. We are not liberated from all these. To be frank, are we not slaves to our own Constitution? As a matter of fact, attaining freedom from something is to automatically become slaves to another. We must confess that we can never enjoy absolute freedom.
Freedom: Man’s Perspective
The then American President Roosevelt, in 1941, made a famous freedom speech in which he aimed at attaining freedom on four fronts, freedom of speech and of religion and freedom from fear and poverty. How much have they achieved? They have attained complete freedom of speech--for that matter any kind of expression--as if free licence is given to live one’s own fantasies. Freedom of religion has ruined the very principle the country was founded on. Being a Christian country, all Christian values are being thrown to the air (Rom. 1:21, 22), and the result is Romans1:24, 26-32. Freedom of religion, in fact, slipped down to become freedom from religion. Regarding the third, not only the people of USA, but also of the whole world have freed themselves not only from the fear of the rules and laws of the land, but also from the very fear of God. It is only on the fourth front the Americans couldn’t succeed; and they never can. Their public debt is said to be trillions and trillions of dollars. We know Jesus has declared that the poor will be always with us (Matt. 26:11). In fact YHWH, much earlier, had predicted that the poor will never cease from the land (Deut.15:11). As if to prove these wrong, one of our prime ministers announced a slogan garibi hatao, and worked towards that goal; but what we experience today is the enactment of a much easily practicable slogan garib ko hatao. The fourth wish of the Americans will remain an unfulfilled dream for ever.
Where Freedom Leads
We boast of enjoying freedom on many counts. Where has man reached after all these years? What did he achieve? One of the famous writers of the world, Indian born Salman Rushdie, one of whose books was nominated for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex Award, strongly argued that a free and civilised society should be judged by its willingness to accept pornography (TOI 09-08-2004)! A Spanish theatre group performed on stage in Hamburg, Germany, live scenes of rape, lesbian sex and masturbation; also a video of a woman having sex with a donkey (Deccan Chronicle 22-08-2004). If these were reports of 2004, how much deeper ‘man’ would have sunk by 2010? India’s own Picasso, M. F. Husain, without considering and respecting the sentiments of the people of the land gave shape to what he thought was freedom of expression in art. The result? Rushdie is under edict issued by Iran sentencing him to death for allegedly insulting Islam in one of his books; the Spanish theatre group was taken care of by the German police. M. F. Husain had to flee his mother land and take citizenship in Qatar. Where does freedom lead mankind? It neither needs God nor His counsel, but freedom to live their minds’ fantasies.
How did the men of the Bible utilise the God-given freedom? At Eden, Eve and Adam misused their liberty and became slaves to Satan. Freedom given to Lot to occupy the land of his choice was misused to live with Sodomites, people hated by God, adopt their customs / practices, and to later fall slave to Satan. The Israelites, given freedom to choose between life and good and death and evil, in spite of being pleaded to by none other than YHWH Himself in favour of life (Deut. 30:15-20), deliberately chose evil, curse and death, thus offering themselves voluntarily at the feet of Satan. In the later days of Samuel, they rejected YHWH as their king; and preferred to have a human king to rule over them. Why, the freedom Jesus gave to His disciples was misused too--one betrayed Him, one denied Him, others (except one) ran away in His hour of need.
The Apostle Paul exhorts believers not to use their freedom to indulge in sin (Gal.5:13). But today everywhere we witness naked display of what is prohibited. When we yield to things of the flesh, which are against God’s will, we are selling ourselves to Satan (1Kgs.21:20) to be his slaves for life. The end of such people will be, simply, terrible.
We know that by every act against the divine will we commit sin. Those who commit sin are slaves to sin (Jn.8:34), however boastfully they may declare about their freedom (v.33). Sin produces things of shame which end in eternal doom (Rom.6:21). Yes, they earn death (v.23), eternal death, and eternal destruction. For this sole reason, the greatest freedom of human is the freedom from sin.
We also, like Israel, have made wrong choices, acted against His will, and were destined for eternal doom. But luckily for us, in the richness of His grace and mercy, God made us, who were dead in sin, alive with Christ (Eph.2:5). Those made free by Him will enjoy absolute freedom (Jn.8:36). What is their paramount duty? The Apostle Peter exhorts them to be servants of God (1Pet.2:16). If we become slaves to God, never will we be slaves to sin and Satan.
We need to introspect. Do we lead a life pleasing to God? Many will ask, "What benefit do I get, if I become slave to God? I will be rejected by the world, counted insignificant." Surely, yes. But we have the hope of a great reward waiting for us, sanctification and eternal life at the end (Rom.6:22). Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Jeremiah, Paul, James, Peter--all were proud to be servants of God. Though He was sent to this world as Messiah, God declared Jesus as His servant; and He lived as a faithful servant of God. So God was delighted in Jesus; He supported and strengthened Him and put His Spirit in Him (Isa.42:1). This reward is for anybody to grab who is a faithful servant of God.
The Heavenly Father has finished His scheme to ensure total freedom of man from sin and Satan, and is waiting eagerly to receive His precious children. But man? What is he/she up to? What are his/her plans? What is his/her aim?
Modern Man’s Perspective
A group of swans were flying high, very high, spreading their white wings. One of them casually looked down below; and shocked by what it saw showed the sight to the others. They couldn’t believe their eyes; but what they saw made all very sad. A few pigs were playing in a pond of slush, jumping, swimming, shouting and thoroughly enjoying themselves. The swans flew down to the pond. Oh, what a stench! They couldn’t bear the sharp stench; but the pigs were really enjoying. The swans pitied them. They thought, "How clean and holy we are, in the height of heights, very near to the throne of God, and we sing praises of Almighty! But poor things, how they play and enjoy, oblivious of the fact that they are making themselves unclean!" So they decided to liberate the pigs from the slavery of filth, and take them to heaven where they would be clean and pure. With this determination they came to the pigs and alerted them, "Hello, brethren. Can’t you make out that you are playing so happily in the most stinking filth and making yourselves unclean? Stop this ugly merry making. Wash yourselves so that you can be pure and without blemish as we are. Then, on our wings we will take you to the presence of the Holy God." "What will we gain there?" the pigs wanted to know. The swans too, encouraged, readily replied, "In the presence of the Almighty God you can sing His praises in eternal happiness and fellowship of the saints. Go, get washed and be cleansed; and we’ll be off soon." The pigs were happy. They discussed for a while, and with one voice they said, "OK, we’ll come with you, but on one condition." The swans also thanked God, for their commission was bearing fruit. They eagerly enquired what the condition was. Freedom was what the pigs wanted. Explained the swans, "Brethren, all who are in God’s presence are holy. No need to control anyone. All have full liberty to praise God. You will enjoy absolute freedom." The pigs were very blunt this time, "Shall we get bigger, deeper ponds with dirty, slushy, stinky, miry clay to play on unceasingly?," was their next question.
Yes, this is modern man’s freedom. He is fully aware what s/he is doing, yet enjoys sin. He prefers this sin which leads to eternal death. What joy, even as they approach ‘eternal death’ step by step!
How about us? Praise God for those, who, like the swans, aim at things which are above (Col.3:1). Simultaneously, pray to Him to give compassionate hearts to those who are freed by the Son to total freedom to work for saving those souls which are perishing in the stinking miry pond of sin. Thus may the Heavenly Father grant us total freedom from sin and Satan which is the real freedom the mankind requires.