Right to Liberty
By: Lisa Karon Richardson
I love the verse that Deb quoted in her Sunday devotion. (Thanks, BTW for stealing my thunder Deb!!) When the time came for Jesus to declare himself openly in his home town he read scripture.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18, ESV)
Those within hearing knew that he wasn’t just doing some innocuous Sabbath day teaching. Nothing Jesus did was an accident and this selection was carefully snipped off in the middle of the prophecy. He made it clear that he was donning the mantle of Messiah. He was the ‘me’ of the scripture. He boldly stated his purpose to all and sundry. And they marveled at him. Total jaw-hanging open shock.
I love that Jesus’ primary objective was to bring liberty. It strikes such a chord in me. Maybe because as Americans, liberty is ingrained as a sort of virtue. The image of chains being loosed is so incredibly powerful. It embodies the message of the gospel through eras and ages, across borders and cultures and barriers. It resonates because everyone has come to a place in their life where they’ve felt bound by circumstance, by their own inability, by other people.
I love that the ESV used the word liberty in this verse rather than freedom. Freedom is the absence of restraint or compulsion. But liberty is a broader word in a way. It implies the power to choose between alternatives.
Because God offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice we can find liberty. We have access to a new nature. We no longer are bound to sin. We can choose to be overcomers.
With choice comes a lot of responsibility though. True liberty is a little scary because it carries within it the possibility of failure. When we are faced with choices it becomes possible to make the wrong choice.
Liberty requires risk.
The founding fathers didn’t guarantee happiness. Although some interpreters seem to think that the government needs to provide everything for its citizens from TV’s and internet service, to healthcare, so that they can all be happy. As if things provide happiness.
No, what the founding fathers promised was the right to pursue happiness. Pursuit requires movement, which in turn can only come from a series of decisions. We decide to get up off our duffs, (or in my case sit down on my duff and write.) We decide in which direction we feel happiness lies. We decide the pace of our travel. Because the pursuit remains in our hands, so does the ultimate outcome, good or bad.
The philosophy of personal responsibility is fading from our society, but down that path lies slavery. When we become too removed from the consequences of our actions liberty is squandered and will be lost. We’ll give it away in order to keep those consequences at bay a little longer.
Jesus is still proclaiming the time of liberty. We live under grace rather than the law. The question is what do we do with that liberty? How do we use the gift entrusted to us? What are we risking? In America we have the Right to Liberty. What are we doing with it?
Have you ever been allowed to make a mistake that someone could have prevented? Did you learn anything from it?