“I want to break free.” Those of us of a certain age will remember that line being sung in 1984 by Freddie Mercury, the Queen lead vocalist. And quite possibly the words scratched where you itched – maybe they still do? No one likes the idea of being trapped and bound by other people or by conventions or by circumstances. Surely the sentiments behind the words are self-evidently right?
But is freedom as desirable as we imagine? Picture a world in which doctors, teachers, bus-drivers, shop-keepers and farmers are free not to turn up for work if they don’t feel like it; a world in which parents are free to leave their children at home alone while they go on a four-week cruise; a world in which scammers are free to help themselves to the life savings of a pensioner. Do we really want to live in a world where everyone is absolutely free to abandon their responsibilities to others?
Obviously the answer is, “No.” A world of absolute freedom would be unbearable. So many would tweak Freddie Mercury’s mantra and say, “I want to break free – so long as I don’t hurt anyone else in exercising my freedom.” Obviously that’s an improvement, but even that doesn’t fit in with the Christian mind.
In Luke’s Gospel there’s a story of a woman who had been bent double for eighteen years. Jesus calls her forward and says to her “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12) And immediately the woman was straightened up and praised God. So we notice that Jesus loves to give freedom – he releases the woman from her miserable physical condition. But he frees her so that she might praise God. That’s the point of freedom in the Christian mind. We don’t want absolute freedom – we don’t want to please ourselves – we want to be free in order to praise and serve and obey our gracious and wise God. As Christians we worship a God “whose service is perfect freedom.” * We believe that service of God is the happy life because service of God is life as it ought to be lived.
One area where we need to apply the Christian understanding of freedom is gender reassignment. For many this is matter of freedom: it’s argued that everyone should be absolutely free to choose the gender they want to be.
But as Christians we should desire the freedom to be what God wants us to be. And the Bible tells us that God himself assigns us our gender: “Male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) And through Christ God gives men the freedom to be the men they ought to be; and through Christ God gives women the freedom to be the women they ought to be. Enjoy your freedom!
Yours in Christ
*See Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer