Friday, 1 March 2013

Freedom - anarchy or service?

We are at the beginning of the Passover season. 

What is Passover all about....??

Is it about remembering how our ancestors splashed blood on their doorposts and lintel so that they would be protected from the avenging Spirit of God?

Is it about remembering how our ancestors crossed the Sea of Reeds in the midst of a hurricane that parted the waters, and then closed over their Egyptian pursuers?

In Jewish tradition, Passover has always been called the ‘Freedom Holiday’. 
Freedom can be understood as a state of mind, because the yearning for freedom is the most passionate and compelling desire of humanity. Even more, it is a state of being so essential to human existence that without it the fabric of our lives is bereft of quality, colour, and texture.

Children instinctively chase a ‘freedom’ that is as frightening as it is exciting. 
Youth defies authority at every turn to pursue ‘freedom’. They do not know what they will do once they have it, but they know they must have their ‘freedom’!  

Leaders call upon the power of ‘freedom’ to inspire, and the masses rise up to fight and die for ‘freedom’.

Freedom is NOT defined as coming and going as you please. 

True freedom is the power to make independent choices.  
All human beings have free will, the ability to make free choices which have a direct impact on our lives.

If you ever did something wrong, and later regretted it, then you believe you have free choice.
If you believe that Raoul Wallenberg, Nicky Winter, and Corrie ten Boom were noble and righteous human beings, it is because you believe that they made a choice where so many others failed.
If you ever scold your children for leaving their room in a mess, then you most definitely believe in free choice! 

The existence of free will creates human responsibility, and the most precious gift a person can receive is the freedom to make his own free choices, and to be responsible for his own actions. 

The Jews did not have the freedom to make free choices while they were slaves in Egypt.

The first ingredient of
the freedom to make free choices is the recognition of God's action in our lives, and implicit in this recognition is the acknowledgment of His immediate care and involvement with us. 
A relationship must be two-sided. Once we have experienced the thrill of all God did for us at Passover, we must choose to respond to Him with appreciation, joy, and love; otherwise there is no   relationship. God makes a suggestion in Isaiah :

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.  Isaiah 55.1-2

In contrast, the essence of slavery is self-concern. 

To be honest, this is true of the slavery in our lives today, just as much as it was true of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt. Preoccupation with myself, my success or failure, my comfort, and the opinion of  others, rob me of my essential freedom. I choose to become a slave to anxiety, fear, compulsion, and insecurity.  

There is an example of this state of slavery in the story of Martha in the   Gospel of Luke:

Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Jesus and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ Jesus answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things…’    Luke 10.40-41

Many people might say: There is nothing wrong with the ‘slavery’ of Martha because to be a ‘slave’ is good, as Jesus said: ‘Whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.’  Mark 10:44 

Scurrying around to prepare for the arrival of Messiah must be the right attitude. This sort of behaviour cannot be ‘sin’ in the same way that murder, lying, cheating, and adultery are ‘sin’. 
When we read the story, each of these comments must have missed the point because Jesus criticised Martha’s behaviour and commended Mary’s:

‘ thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’  Luke 10.42

Martha was apparently ‘worried and troubled about many things’, not just serving a meal. Her ‘worrying’ was an indication that her chosen priorities in life were wrong, and the result of her worrying was exactly as Psalm 37.6 predicted: Cease from not fret; it only causes harm.

Martha’s worry led her to be angry with Mary. The result of her worry and anger was that there was an atmosphere of resentment and bitterness in the house which was causing harm to the sister’s relationship with each other.  The     atmosphere was not likely to help everyone else who was there. 

The Bible defines the redemption from Egypt at the Exodus as God saving us from slavery. 

However, to understand the true meaning of slavery we must  distinguish between the terms used to describe ‘work’ in the Hebrew language. There are two words, avodah and malacha. Both are usually translated as ‘work.’ 

Rabbi Maimonides explains that malacha has a finished product as its climax. This is the type of work forbidden on the Sabbath. On the other hand, avodah describes labour without any real   purpose or accomplishment. 

The term for a slave, eved, is related to the word avodah. An eved is someone whose effort produces work with no goal or accomplishment. He exists only in order to work, and the goal of his work is someone else's agenda.God redeemed us from slavery, He opened our eyes to the horror of a life that has no purpose. 

To understand life that has no purpose watch the TV News on a regular basis, particularly at times of the New Year Sales, or Summer Sales, and watch those who queue overnight to ‘grab a bargain’. That is an example of behaviour that is ’slavery’.  

Life must have a purpose.  To live a moral life must have a purpose beyond keeping out of trouble with God. 
Life must have a positive purpose, objective, and aim, and not just be bound by negatives; do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not lie, cheat, covet, steal…  

Freedom to choose must be a worthwhile choice.  It must lead to a malacha that has a finished product, rather than the avodah of life without any real purpose or accomplishment.

At the end of his life, Joshua gave the Children of Israel a choice:

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served ...or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.   Joshua 24.15

Jesus presented Martha with a choice:

Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.  Luke 10.41-42

Jesus gave the ‘Jews who believed Him’ a choice:

Jesus  said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My Word, ... You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free. They answered Him, ‘We ... have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered, ‘Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. ... Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’      John 8.31-36 

Passover, the Feast of Freedom, is a celebration of the fact that everyone has a choice as a result of the redemptive act of God at the Exodus, and the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Messiah. 

Enjoy your freedom to make a choice at this Passover season....and make the right choice!!  

Until next week...

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