written by Rev Gary Heard
The capacity for independent thought and action is something we pride ourselves on as Westerners. It has been part of the political propaganda and agenda which emerged during the twentieth century in the face of dictatorial regimes. It is this “freedom” that we have equated with democracy and free enterprise, yet which has given rise to significant levels of decline in happiness and satisfaction amongst an increasingly wealthy population. With access to far greater resources, we have found ourselves enveloped in a deepening malaise. The quest for freedom seems to have left us more unsettled, with higher levels of stress and mental illness. Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard suggested a reason: “We have built ourselves a grand castle of freedom but choose to live in a shack nearby.”
The quest for freedom in the West is radically compromised by our economic system, which thrives on continued consumption, fuelled by an advertising industry which feeds our sense of inadequacy and insufficiency. It sells us products designed to meet needs of which we were unaware until their advertising campaign commenced. Their products offer a new sense of identity, purpose and status on the back of a message which reminds us how inadequate we are until we own their product. A purchase satisfies for a mere moment until the next version/upgrade/improvement. Once proud of the 66cm TV we own, we are now subject to campaigns designed to switch us to the latest plasma/LCD wide-screen HD, surround sound screens. Once happy to drive the manual car around the city, we are now urged to own the air-conditioned 4WD sedan with seating for seven and a DVD player/screen included. The system reminds us of our inadequacy in many subtle ways.
The gospel writers record the words of Jesus: “When the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed,” (John 8:36) promising not an exchange of one slavery for another, but a freedom in which the purposes of God are able to be fufilled in us, regardless of our time and place. It was a promise based on example, not mere words, as demonstrated in Jesus’ willingness and ability to avoid being pressured into the agenda of so many other people in order to live simply as God had called him. True freedom is not found in Jesus by exiting the system but living in it, yet independent of it.
When we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are entering a conspiracy to live in the world by another standard: one which is empowered by the Spirit who blows with a unique freedom (John 3:8). May God help us to embrace and embody this freedom in our own lives.
August 24, 2008