Love and Freedom – 1
By Fred Pruitt
(This is the first of a series.)
Part One – The Son Shall Set You Free
Freedom is at the heart of everything godly. The New Testament as well as the Old, promises freedom and Paul exhorts us to stand fast in the freedom of Christ into which we have been born. And freedom, the right true freedom, we might also say is synonymous with love, because true love cannot operate any other way than in freedom. Like the Sting song says, “If you love somebody, set them free!”
We were born out of that same freedom of God in our innermost being, our spirits. Freedom is an integral part of being made in God’s image and likeness. The scripture says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.” (Prov 20:27). That means that our spirits are the heavenly, eternal part in us, for we were born not just for the earth, but for heaven and earth (heaven in earth).
Long ago I realized that man is in microcosm what God is in macrocosm, that is, as Paul said, “we are his offspring,” (Acts 17:28,29), and that is the “spirit part” of us. What I mean, is that God is within us in His fullness, for wherever He IS, He is not a “part” of Himself but the Total of Himself. Everything about the Godhead and time and the eternal is in God, in me. So as I see His Life manifest in me, the Spirit’s wisdom uses that to teach me of God in myself. As Jesus said in John 7:38, the waters of life flow out of our innermost being, so that is where we are to look for and expect it – within! And the Spirit does that in all of us.
Let’s examine this a minute. When I am speaking of “freedom” in this context, I am meaning freedom in its best sense, which is not simply being able to randomly do any and every thing one wants in a fleshly sense (though in the Spirit sometimes it seems to be exactly that), or anything else along those lines, which is chaos. That life is characterized by, “I don’t have to do anything you want …. I can do anything I want.”
But true freedom operates through necessary choices between alternatives that determine our paths in life. Every major “choice” for this path or that path starts at a fork in the road. Whichever road we take, puts us on one path, and not the other, thus defining our freedom, because saying yes to one thing, means saying no to something else. I decide to go to Georgia Tech, and by default decide not to go to any other school. My education path puts me down a particular road, a “defined freedom” we might say, with people I will meet, things I will learn, experiences I will have, that would all be entirely different should I pick a different school.
But one path also dovetails into other paths. In my case, I did not stay very long at the school I originally attended after high school. I changed schools, and that is where I met Janis, and obviously I had no idea that would happen. A while later, in my freedom of choice, I asked her and she said yes and in that sense I “chose” Janis to be my wife. That choice also comes with limitation, because in saying “Yes,” to Janis, I am saying, “No,” to every other woman in the world in the marital sense. However, within the borders of marriage, we live in total joy and freedom in that choice.
Now God has given to every human being in some measure inward choices through the things we face as to the direction or hope of our lives. Of course before any major decisions are made, inner desires begin to build in us. They are the stirrings of the drawing of the Spirit in which our paths in life begin to take shape.
In some ways, we begin to decide in a foundational sense what we will be, who we want to be. It may be altogether “secular,” though nothing whatsoever is, in and of itself, secular. Hidden in all these alternatives which continually confront our paths, are the pulls of the Spirit toward being God’s instruments of love, or conversely the enemy’s downward pull toward being someone only out for ourselves. Of course, the choice is rarely presented exactly in those terms, but no matter what the trappings may be, at heart that is the choice of choices and in one way or another everyone faces it at various times and events in our lives. I am not equating this necessarily with salvation or with “knowledge” of God, but I can certainly see this as a part of the drawing path of God as the Spirit works in everyone’s hearts, since Christ “is the light that lights every man than comes into the world.”
I am certain this is a universal truth. It is all over the world, in every country, class, culture or set of spiritual beliefs, because we all know in our hearts, since we are all the offspring of God, that self-giving love is better than self-getting love. So human arts of all kinds — literature, painting, music, film and other media — are filled with the highest of unselfish ideals, often attainable in art as a message, a story, a song, a painting, a book or a film, but sadly, not so much in “real life,” which is what gives art and the humanity that creates it, its pathos.
My point is to underline what to me is a fact, that at some level every human being knows about this choice. Call it conscience, morality, social mores – whatever – God’s stamp is in everything. And ultimately this is where God looks, in the heart and its primary “choice.” Christ is found where He is found, in the choice for divine other-love, “I would like to be for you and your benefit” – perhaps even as an unrealized but nevertheless valid desire of the heart.
Jesus said, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:20,21).
I wondered about that passage for years, because it sounds like those who come to the Light are already “doing truth,” before they come, and they come into the light to confirm it, so to speak. But if we are “sin” before we come, how could that be?
One day I saw it – we divide and are drawn according to what we desire and want to be. And understand, even this is a “received” desire, i.e., not originating in ourselves! As we hear we are drawn of the Father, and at the same time receiving a “love of the truth,” which comes not from ourselves, but from God. Paul wrote the Thessalonians, that “…with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thes 2:10).
Do we see what it says here? The “love of the truth” is available to be received universally, just as is the gift of salvation. It is available to all. But some do not receive it. Just as it says in the first chapter of John, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:11,12).
We cannot penetrate deeper than this, for God tells us no more than this that the natural man would desire to know. I do not know why some receive, and apparently, some do not. Also, on this subject, many have wondered how we can say we “chose rightly,” because that sounds like pride, or hints of an edge others do not have. For that reason, some have rejected the idea of choice altogether, refusing to acknowledge any “choosing” on “my” part; because that would be prideful, somehow saying “I” had a part in the completion of my own salvation. It sounds subtly legalistic.
But the truth is, to me, to say, “We do no choosing,” just sounds like unrealistic “theology,” having nothing to do with real life. No life, neither Divine nor human, operates without choices between alternatives. Even animals discriminate. This is because it remains a fact that the foundational being of a “person” is freedom – and freedom, as I said above, is not freedom but chaos, until freedom is utilized for its right purpose, choosing this or not choosing that. This is inherent in our rising up in our personhood!
(Another aspect of John 3:20-21, above, reminds me of another story a friend told me about Norman Grubb. Norman was very much a “grace” man, and like most of us “grace” folks, he shied away from anything that looked like a “work” that we must accomplish or some special “attitude” on our part necessary before being born of the Spirit. But this friend of mine kept pressing him, asking something like, “Isn’t there anything on our part that helps the process?” She said he did not want to answer that, so she kept coaxing him. Finally, he said, “Well, if there is anything, it would probably be honesty.” And his use of the word, “honesty,” is what this scripture passage is all about. It means being willing to be exposed to the Light, knowing that when we “suffer” ourselves to be fully transparent before God, nothing can be hidden. We [the “we” we thought we were] are undone, i.e., we learn our total “zero-ness” which opens a space within us for the Spirit to come through.)
Freedom is the environment that Love creates. But the words “liberty” and “liberation,” though they are sometimes interchangeable with the words “freedom” and “being made free,” have a slightly different flavor to them in certain contexts. The words “liberty” and “liberation” in English are more like a instantly realized “state of being,” or an event that occurs to SET someone free. When Abraham Lincoln liberated the slaves, from then on they had been “set at liberty,” and lived in freedom. (Though the former slaves still had a long way to go to gain their rightful place as full and equal participants in American society and economic opportunity, and still do to this day.)
But not withstanding man’s sometimes poor applications of freedom for all, still what a parable in the temporal world of Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18, for Abraham Lincoln, who seemed to have a Divine-temporal commission, both to save the American Union and to rid it of the horrible stench of slavery! (If anyone else at the time had been President, probably neither would have occurred! I would be living possibly in the “Confederate States of America,” and I cannot imagine what kind of society that would have become, having been built upon slavery as a “principle.” What a horror!!!!)
But as I said, in the temporal Mr. Lincoln fulfilled the Messianic Promise:
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18 — NKJV).
They had been liberated! What did “freedom” mean to those manumitted slaves? It meant they could go wherever they desired and work for whomever they chose. They could determine the course of their own lives like all free men, without a “master” above them to say yes or no. (Ironically, that was one of the main reasons their white masters’ ancestors had fled Europe in the century or two before.)
In bondage, they had no ultimate freedom of choice. When they were liberated, they could choose what they were going to do. That is both the privilege and heavy responsibility of freedom! But it is not freedom, if one does not have that one thing – freedom of choice, despite the responsibility that comes with it. As I slave, I could blame all my troubles on the Master and slavery itself. When I am free, I’m the one on the spot.
I do not understand life without freedom of choice and making those subsequent choices out of that freedom. Of course, paradoxically, I also am certain that everything is worked after the counsel of His Divine Will. Somehow, I am joyously “free,” being perfectly myself in Him, having complete and lawful freedom of choice, while living within that Divine working in which everything works according to HIS will, and it is no conflict for me.
Recently I was watching the Ken Burns documentary on World War II. There was an episode that featured the liberation of Paris after 5 years of horrible Nazi occupation. I cried tears of joy with the citizens of Paris as the Allied Armies marched through Paris after the Nazis abandoned the city. I was not born then, but all these years later their energy and emotions of joy, release, safety, whatever else they must have been feeling and thinking, somehow made its way into my psyche also. Perhaps there is no greater joy than being rescued from any great bondage that holds us, but theirs was such a dark and heavy bondage under such a dark and evil regime, that their combined joy must have been as proportionally off the charts of thanksgiving, relief and safety, as much as had been the downward dark evil that preceded it.
But what an excellent example of this liberation we have been given! Being under the Nazis was for most conquered peoples like being in hell itself! And how like Christ they must have been to the citizens of those occupied countries, as their liberators in the Allied Forces set first France, Belgium and The Netherlands free of Nazi grip, and then smashed their way finally across the Rhine to total victory!
Do we realize how much MORE is our liberation in Christ?
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Eph 3:20,21).
“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:17,18).