One of the main characters in John Milton’s Paradise Lost is Satan. And he has a problem that needs to be addressed. He needs a plan and strategy that would allow him to maintain control over Hell. Eventually, Satan comes up with the most brilliant plan. He manages to convince everyone in Hell that they were truly free and independent to do whatever they wanted. The result? Absolute chaos. And this allows him to maintain his tyranny.
Today, as we celebrate Independence Day, we reflect on the meaning and impact of freedom in our lives and faith. In the modern world, too often, freedom is presented and understood as an absolute value, the ability and right of an individual to choose, express, say, and do what they want. Yet, this is not how freedom has ever been understood throughout history and human civilization. Milton’s story from Paradise Lost is a powerful reminder that if we were to live our lives doing whatever we pleased, whenever we pleased, our lives would soon fall into absolute and complete chaos. It shows us that freedom, when misunderstood and misrepresented, can also become very dangerous.
The most stunning tale of freedom is found in the opening chapters of the Holy Bible. There we discover that freedom is a precious divine gift. Unlike the modern egocentric and misguided definition of freedom, the biblical version comes with a clear goal and also boundaries. The God-given freedom was setting humanity apart from the rest of creation and lifted them to the status of co-creators. The possibilities of what could be done and accomplished were truly endless. However, there was a single thing that humanity was explicitly warned not to do. And despite the dire warning, this is exactly what we chose to do.
So, one might rightly question and wonder if freedom, being a divine quality and attribute, is such a hard thing to comprehend, discern and follow, why God created and wanted humans to be free. The Bible tells us that humanity was created in God’s image and likeness, unlike anything created by God. And as such, we have the ability to recognize, connect and form a truly loving relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father through intellect and emotion. To be able to love, one needs to be free, truly and completely free, and willing to do so. Love can not be forced, planned, manipulated, or influenced in any way. Freedom is the fruitful soil out of which the exquisite flower of love for God is born in our hearts.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, more than any other day, let us remember and reflect on the fact that our freedom is a precious divine gift from God. We are free to choose and live our lives the way we feel and want to, free to spend our time and talents on things that please and bring joy to us. But above all, we are free to use our freedom to recognize the role and impact of God in our lives and especially free to believe, trust and love God.