Please forgive this somewhat trivial analogy. I once owned a six and a half stone boxer dog (that’s ninety-one pounds or forty-one kilos). He did not know how to be a dog in today’s world. He was well fed, healthy, energetic, content, affectionate and in great shape.
In visiting one European country, I noticed that there were many stray dogs, including boxers. They could eat what they wanted, go where they wanted, sleep where they wanted. They were also thin, diseased, lethargic, agitated, fearful and injured.
The difference in these animals lay in their contrasting experiences of the second chosen mission of the Son of Man: the matter of freedom.
One of my ancestors was once held wrongly as a political prisoner in one of the worst prisons in Europe. The whole concept of imprisonment is filled with pain and degradation. While some serve sentences befitting justice to a crime, any form of imprisonment is suffering.
Make no mistake, the thirty-year-old Son of Man was deeply moved with compassion for the poor and the prisoner. Just as the word “poor” can apply in different contexts, so can the word prisoner.
So we can look at him and see his work, then we can use what we see to measure our freedom rating.
I’ve been to prisons as a Christian minister. All prisoners are physically restricted by definition, but there are some prisoners who are restricted and free at the same time.
So I’m going to cut to the top line and say that freedom, like good news, is a gift.
Good news arrives through preaching, but freedom arrives by royal proclamation.
“If the son sets you free” said the Son of Man, “you will be free indeed”.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”, Paul of Tarsus wrote to some Greek Christians.
So as the Son of Man, empowered by the Spirit, reads a proclamation of freedom, it’s worth deconstructing what he means for you and your week.
I’m going to suggest that you consider yourself to be living in four overlapping worlds. The worlds of your body, mind, feelings and spirit. This will allow you to label freedom as physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. It will further allow you to label slavery or imprisonment as physical slavery, mental slavery, emotional or spiritual slavery.
Finally, to complete our label set, I suggest you label laws as natural laws (gravity etc.), judicial laws (legal systems), moral laws (inner conscience), and codes (religious, sporting, clubs, tribes etc.)
Exhausted yet? What does freedom mean in all your worlds?
If my boxer dog could speak, he would tell you. Freedom means having a loving, caring, nurturing, protecting, empowering owner, whose wisdom goes beyond his, and pays the cost of all that is needed for a healthy life. My dog was free because I made him free.
You and I don’t know how to be humans in today’s world. We end up enslaved physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are addicted, restricted, afflicted and conflicted.
Anger, depression, anxiety, and worry enslave our minds and feelings. Fear, doubt, loneliness invade our spirits. We find it difficult to love ourselves, accept ourselves and love others. We fight, quarrel, oppress and restrict others. We carry damage in our beings which build prisons around us. We think enslaving thoughts, carry oppressive feelings, and struggle to discover meaning, purpose and vision.
Until the Son of Man, empowered by the Spirit, proclaims a freedom and brings a sublime, benevolent ownership into your world, as the life-giving power of the same Spirit pours that sweet freedom into your soul.
This freedom, like the good news, is free, available, permanent and effective, and you can take it to work with you. Actually, it takes you to work.
The Son of Man’s proclamation, in my experience, doesn’t let you go where you like, do what you like, be what you like. It’s cleverer than that.
It teaches you to like where you go, like what you do, and like who you are.
Did I mention everything changes?
4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
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