Sunday, June 29, 2014

Freedom in God

"The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor is it in man, but in God. By giving man freedom God has yielded to man a piece of His divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, as a most perfect offering." - Saint Theophan the Recluse

Often we find ourselves thinking that freedom is about political freedom or personal freedom to do our own thing. Political freedom is good but only if it encourages us to seek God. Individual ego based freedom is never good.  We must always seek to show our love for others and to carry out the commandments of God, but as freely chosen. When we do surrender to God and become participating member of His Church, we find real freedom when we allow ourselves to act according to God's will. Then nothing can oppress us.

Jesus said,

"If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" And those who heard Him said, "We are Abraham’s seed, and we were never in bondage to any man, how sayest thou, you shall be made free?" And He answered, Verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (1 John 8:31-34)

St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans says,

"For when you were the servants of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what fruit had you then from those things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now set free from sin and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and as your end, life everlasting." (6:20-22)

The deepest and most fundamental of the Church’s understandings of freedom is simply the freedom from sin and its wage or consequences. The understanding that Christ has given to men a freedom that cannot be taken away, no matter what the external circumstances of life may be, has provided the strength, the dynamism, the very life of the Church in the different periods of her bondage, her restrictions. There was the long three century persecution of the Church by the Roman Empire, and the very martyrs were witnesses and advocates of their freedom in Christ. The Muslim conquest and domination of much of the world that had been Christian, and the reduction of Christians to second-class citizenship, the restrictions against their proclaiming the Gospel, brought no despair to those who knew Christ and His truth. This lasted well into the nineteenth century in certain places.

And in our own twentieth century, restrictions and persecutions, perhaps heavier and more severe than in any other time, in Communist lands failed to extinguish the light of Christian truth, and finally the most essential Christian freedom.

It is in Christ, as perfect Man, that man comes to the full realization of what it means to be in the image and likeness of God. For man’s freedom is an Icon, an image of the Divine Freedom itself.

Our challenge is to take our free will that God has blessed us with and commit it to abandon sin and to instead please God.