Brother Dennis, CDL
As we approach the two hundred and thirtieth anniversary of our nation’s independence, it’s a good time to reflect on freedom and what that means for us as individuals, as a nation, as a global community, and as people of God.
The Gospel reading from Luke tells of Jesus commissioning seventy-two of his followers to go ahead of him as sort of an advance team to tell of the coming of the Kingdom of God. He mentions in particular a message of peace, instructing them to bless the house they enter with peace, and if the people they encounter are people of peace then they will receive and honor this blessing.
But Jesus also warns that not all will welcome this message of the Kingdom of God and for that matter even want the blessing of peace. In that case Jesus says that they are to shake the dust off their feet and keep moving. This reminds me of what we say in Twelve-Step spirituality, that to spend too much time chasing after people who do not want to hear our message of recovery is to deny others who really want it.
So this brings me to the thought of freedom and more specifically, freewill, which I believe is, second only to the gift of God’s Son, a great and important gift from God to humanity. Why is free will so important? Because it allows us the opportunity to freely choose God – to choose God’s peace, to choose God’s love for ourselves. Because what kind of love would it be if God forced us to love – had us down on the ground twisting our arms until we gave in. It wouldn’t be love at all. It would be coercion or even terrorism. But when we have the ability to truly choose it for ourselves, it is real, it is authentic.
The catch is that this great gift of free will is absolute. We have it in the big things in life – like choosing God’s love for ourselves, and we have it in all the smaller things in life. We have it in how we choose to treat one another. The Holy Spirit will surely try to guide into God’s desire for us, but at the end of the day we have the free will to choose God’s desire or something else. Sometimes when we choose something other than what God would want for us we cause pain, either for ourselves or for others. I have a sense that when we choose to use our own will in ways that hurts us or others, it breaks God’s heart, and I believe God weeps for us and with us. But the moment God steps in, the moment God intervenes, we no longer have free will. We no longer have one of the greatest gifts of all, the gift to choose God’s love.
It must be hard being God to see us abuse our free will in ways that cause so much pain for humanity. But it also might be amazing for God to see us choosing love – choosing God, which can lead us to the greatest freedom of all, the freedom that comes with aligning our will with God’s desire for us. It is the freedom to love with no strings attached.
We live in a world that is in great need of love. There is so much going on right now. There is so much aggression in the world, so many forms of hurtful actions. The world is great need of the Good News of God in Christ. And we can bring the message of peace, of hope, of love. In the words of William Sloan Coffin:
May God grant you the grace to never sell yourself short.
Grace to risk something big for something good.
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth,
and to small of anything but love.