Daily Crosses and the Pathway of Freedom
We live in a time of the relentless pursuit of freedom. An unshackled journey further into the self where happiness is believed to be found in whatever is felt, perceived as good, and no one, or institution, church, or God, can question choices, beliefs, or actions.
There is a common belief in the modern world which didn’t exist even a few hundred years ago that freedom is found in personal choice and outside voices and/or authority are considered the enemy. Freedom with no constraints, freedom with no community, freedom where feelings reign.
What does freedom look like?
Too harsh? Maybe, maybe not. We may not articulate our desire for freedom with these categories but our lives tell a different story. My life tells a different story. We want freedom without God. We want freedom with no accountability. We want freedoms without a community guiding our path. We believe feelings and the self are the ultimate barometer of truth.
The problem is not the idea of freedom or pursuit of it. Freedom is a gift and necessary on many levels and in many circumstances. People who are told they can’t eat at the lunch counter because of their skin color need to fight for justice and freedom. Woman who are seen as second class citizens, for simply being woman, need new freedoms. When dictators use control and violence to hush the people; we need freedom.
Freedom and the desire for freedom is not the problem here. The path and discovery of freedom is the problem we must address. We’ve taken a good thing like freedom and tried to remove all constraints and are left with the building burning down in the background.
Another problem is no one seems to have any idea what freedom is supposed to look like, when its working, what it’s for, and when we’ve found it. We want freedom, and yet, spend the bulk of our lives angry, anxious, depressed, and fighting for the freedom that so often alludes us. The thing we want ends up being the thing we hate and despise. Freedoms we deem worthy of pursing and leading to the road of happened the very thing that enslaves us.
Common Pursuits of Freedom
Let’s ask a question to put some skin on the conversation. Who are the people in society that exemplify freedom? What do they look like? How do they live? What makes them free? What makes them tick?
The hippy who’s not worried about money, possessions, and just wants love man, love, and maybe legalized marijuana. How about the successful business owner that buys freedom with amassed wealth? A person who doesn’t worry about lack and safety and can buy whatever the world can offer. Is that freedom? The one with the most toys wins in the end… and is the most free.
Let’s reverse the scenario and think of the joyful Haitian living in poverty, maybe a dollar a day. They don’t have anything, no job prospects, no choices in work, and survival a priority. Yet, they are living with a deep seated joy. Is this the picture of freedom we desire? Is this the path of joy and happiness? We don’t need any possessions and money and stuff.
Okay, the above examples are primarily on an economic level. How about on a relational plane. The person who wants to have multiple partners and not be tied down the rest of their life. They want choices and options of who sleeps in the bed and when they leave. Freedom, right?
The child who is never told “no” and is celebrated as the next Einstein and can do no wrong? The mom or dad who parents out of insecurity and wants to be loved and seen as the “cool” parent while never saying the hard things. Freedom?
The person who is constantly angry because other people don’t “get them.” Always searching for a new tribe to belong, and if that one fails, they jump to the next. They believe only happiness is found in the self, and not in a community, or others, or God. Freedom?
What do free people look like? What is the path of freedom? Is there one?
The Free One
I know of one man that encapsulates the essence and reality of freedom. A man the world still has no category for and can’t believe this person could live free, loving, and gracious despite difficult and not ideal circumstance. Martin Luther King Jr.? Mother Teresa?
Nope. Jesus Christ was and is the most free human the world has ever seen . The image of the invisible God and the exact imprint of God. God taking on flesh. If we could imagine a free human, perfect human, one without sin, it is found in the person and humanity of Jesus.
When I think of free people I think of Jesus. When I think of a person who is not riddled with anxiety and fear of tomorrow and the pain of the world… I think of Jesus. The one who entrusted himself to the Father despite meager amenities of life.
Freedom looks like the ability to forgive your closest friends and enemies on the cross when they’ve abandoned you and left you for dead.
When I think of a person who knows how to immerse themselves in a community despite the people being outcasts, socially stunted, confused, sinful, and people who are not going to advance your platform… I think of Jesus.
Jesus models freedom by not allowing possessions and money to be their greatest treasure. Jesus lived with very little and lived with inexhaustible joy. Instead of hoarding possessions and money he shared. Instead of living in worry and fear and piling up bigger barns he sought a greater treasure, the Kingdom of God. Freedom.
Daily Crosses and the Pathway for Freedom
How do we get this freedom? Can we even begin to taste the kind of freedom Jesus knew…?
Jesus said it involves crosses. Daily crosses.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. -Luke 9:22-23
You want freedom? You want life? You need to die daily.
Jesus lived with a freedom we only dream of because he came to die. Philippians 2 says Jesus, set aside glory and heaven and Trinitarian love, to take up a daily cross (my paraphrase). Jesus didn’t come to think about himself, he came to serve, and serve as a ransom on a cross.
Freedom is not about finding your true self in a vacuum. Your true self is only found in relation to the one who made you, Jesus Christ. Freedom doesn’t come from money, possessions, the right relationships, connections, and a platform.
You find life and freedom when you stop trying to preserve and prop up your life. Jesus was free because he came to earth to please and glorify and live for an audience of one. God the Father. He had an identity larger and more cosmic than the self. He found it in the love of the Father, and the exhaustive, and eternal love of the Godhead.
When a person is found in Christ and finds what Galatians 5:1 calls true freedom. We live for an ultimate and primary audience. We take up a daily cross. The daily part being difficult.
But we hoist the heavy and splintered cross so we can find true life. We die to self and ambition and all the things we believe will give us lasting joy. We begin to see freedom is not ignoring a community; but rather joining a community of like-minded people to be shaped into free people. We need Spirit and others to pull this off.
Climb the Cross of Freedom
Freedom looks like a daily cross. Freedom is found in climbing up the cross and joining Christ. Paul said in Colossians 3:3 that’s what happened when we became disciples of Jesus, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Freedom is found in death and rising and service. In the dying and in the rising and in the Christ, we find the freedom we all dream about.
It’s a difficult path filled with twists and turns and pain and fear and doubt. But at the end is a joy that only Christ can offer the free.
Freedom looks like Jesus.