On a day when some of us will be home from work or school because of the commemoration of Martin Luther King, it came to mind as I was reading this verse how much King preached a message of living life for the sake of others. His messages, although tending to address racial equality, was more about embracing a quality of life for others that we would expect for ourselves and for those we love.Out of this expectation, we will become free.
But free from what? While it is true that not all of us have tasted the effects of socio-political oppression of slavery, racism, discrimination, we may live with the continuing nag that we are not truly free from forces and relationships that oppress us. All of this turmoil comes not only from oppressive systems out there but from something oppressive within each of us.
The Message Bible says it this way:
19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
So it is not enough to have lofty ideals about freedom and equality and peace… there is something more to be done inside of our own souls. My own confession is that too many times I begin and end each day in slavery to my own self focused paradigm. I pray today for a shift in me more and more toward the One who frees us completely from that to which we are enslaved.