In today’s Faith & Religion section is a story about the influence of Moses on American history and culture. Moses has two central dimensions: law-giver and liberator.
He received the law from Yahweh and delivered it to the Hebrew people, and he led them out of bondage in Egypt.
Freedom and law are intertwined in the story of Moses. The law sets boundaries for the proper relationships among the people and between the people and God. In this context, freedom flourishes – the freedom to be who God created his people to be.
Freedom connotes something different in the modern mind. It’s usually interpreted as the absence of restraint.
That kind of freedom can be good if the restraints are repressive and dehumanizing, but it can also be enormously destructive. Without a framework, freedom can degenerate into emotional, spiritual and psychological chaos. Freedom seen as a license to do whatever we wish, whatever the consequences to ourselves or others, will more often than not turn into a kind of slavery – of self-bondage.
God liberates us from that bondage to self by calling us to our truer, more authentic created selves. Jesus boiled the law down to two things: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Live within that framework and we are truly free.
Being free, at its foundation, means allowing God to be the focal point of our lives. Anything else at the center – money, status, power, position, image – will enslave. Man throughout history has attempted to put himself in God’s place, and the self-gratifying idols he installs never fill the void.
The Book of Common Prayer refers to a God “whose service is perfect freedom.” Service? Freedom? The two don’t go together in the 21st century ethos.
Yet Jesus said we had to lose our lives to gain them. Shake off the bondage to self and abandon ourselves to God and there is nothing that can enslave us.
“This ‘holy obedience’ forms the grid through which the life of simplicity flows,” Richard Foster wrote in his book, “Freedom of Simplicity.” “Radical obedience,” wrote Foster, “is possible only when God has our supreme allegiance. The Ten Commandments (delivered by Moses) begin with three staccato warnings against idolatry. Idolatry is, of course, the attempt to erect an allegiance higher than God. ‘No,’ shouts the decalogue; the one true God must be the heart of our devotion.”
It is in that framework – the dismissal of idols and radical obedience to God – that the freedom that quenches an otherwise unquenchable thirst will flourish.
True spiritual freedom – the freedom that liberates us from fearful, overanxious and burdensome lives – can come only in the framework that obedience to God provides. Few of us reach that total state of freedom in this earthly life, but the journey toward it is the road to our truest selves.
NEMS Daily Journal