Disclaimer: I know this discussion can get very political very quickly, but I have no intention on treading those grounds, so bear with me.
As I sit here, just off shore of a lake, on the morning of July 4th, I am struck with the concept and idea of freedom. I am facing some tough decisions in my life; specifically related to my future. In a few short months, I will be traveling to, and living in, a country where the citizens do not have “certain unalienable rights.” A place where freedom is still just a dream the people hope for. Still, today is a day that Americans celebrate their liberation from a tyrannous government. Today is the day we honor those who have laid down their life for a cause much greater than themselves. And yet, I have to ask myself, “What is freedom” and “What does it mean to truly be free?”
I guess the best place to start when looking for a definition is the dictionary. Webster defines freedom as “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: independence.” Or, from dictionary.com: “exemption from external control, interference, or regulation.” Now, I have to ask myself, are we, as humans, really free? Or, do we willingly give up our freedom and place ourselves back in situations of bondage and slavery? If you answered anything along the lines of “You bet I’m free” or “I would never give up my freedom,” think again. Where do you spend most of your time? Where do your thoughts go when you actually spare a moment in your day? I know it’s a cliché statement but: we are all slaves to something, aren’t we? Our job, money, our kids, any form of addiction. At least, in the American situation, we get to choose what we are a slave to. One can give up their freedom to just about anything really. So, why fight so hard to be free only to again subject ourselves to the rule or dominion of another person, or even worse, an object.
Maybe it is a matter of illusion. People want to feel free, they want to have the ability to make choices and to live how they please, I know I do. Yet, given this freedom to choose, I rarely see people step up to the plate and accept the consequences of their choices. The old phrase “The devil made me do it” comes to mind. It’s as old as human history itself. We want freedom, we act accordingly, and the first time we screw up, it is immediately someone or something else’s fault for what we did. Maybe it is a cop out or a result of fear. Let us remember the Israelites as they leave Egypt with Moses and take hold of the freedom they wanted for 430 years. Not long after they have left Egypt, the Israelites run out of food and decide they were better off as slaves in Egypt (Exodus 16). Or, just outside of Canaan (the promised land) the Israelites spread fear among themselves and decide it would be better to go back to Egypt and be slaves (Numbers 14). Or, Maybe it is an escape. Trying so desperately to take care of our own needs, manage our lives and actually utilize this freedom we want is just so difficult we naturally slide back into our comfort zone and let someone or something else take control.
Regardless of motivation, the fact still remains that human nature is to want dominion and control and yet still subject oneself to the control of someone or something else. Let’s make this conversation a bit personal. What is your master? What do you subject your life to and empower to give you direction? Even in baptism and choosing to live for God a person is not free, at least not in the defined sense. We are merely choosing who or what we are a slave to. Without Christ, a person is a slave to sin (John 8:34); some form of anger, greed, laziness, pride, lust, envy, or gluttony. However, when a person is baptized, they are choosing to leave the dominion of sin and instead submit themselves to the rule of God (Romans 6). So, I ask again, as humans, are we really free? Or, do we simply choose who or what we want our master to be?