Freedom. It’s one of, if not the major thrust of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It’s the stuff of legendary speeches. It’s the stuff of battle cries. After all “give me freedom or give me death”.
And freedom resonates. It resonates because it is a beautifully important reality if we are to realize our potential as human creatures. Having been created in God’s image–a God who creates–we too have the need to create. We have indeed been invited to be co-creators alongside God, to embellish this good Creation, to make it yet more lovely. And freedom is a necessary component of creative expression.
Yet, freedom has a dirty little secret. It is not a thing in itself. A fancy way of saying this is to say that freedom is a derivative concept. That is, it derives it’s intelligibility from that which it orients to. In other words, you are either free from something, or you are free for something. You cannot simply be free.
So, as we near our nation’s day of independence, I want to ask us to imagine just what sort of freedom Paul might be talking about in his letter to the Galatians. I think you might be surprised to find out that Paul had no notion of individual independence (as we now understand it), but rather understood God’s freedom to be a deep interdependence on one another.
Freedom as an end produces division–for we are all free to pursue whatever end we imagine suits us. This, however, is not what it means to be uniquely human. To be human is to recognize and live into the reality that I am NOT independent. Rather I am deeply interdependent on everything that is for my very existence.
I am dependent on the creation for every atom that populates my body. I am dependent on Creator for the breath that animates my body. I am dependent on those who have gone before me for so much of what I take for granted. I am dependent on both the global and local community for almost every other thing. I am NOT independent. I am deeply INTERDEPENDENT. And in this interdependence, I am free. Free from the bondage of my own selfishness. Free from the tyranny of self. Free to live into my calling–to be one who makes this creation yet more lovely for all those who inhabit her.
AMAHORO. “I am because we are”.