“The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty and precisely the same difference prevails today amongst human creatures.” – Abraham Lincoln
What do you believe? What do you support? How do you share that with others? Do you have a bumper sticker, an insignia or a calling card? The popular action in pursuit of ideologies and idealism is to boldly spread one’s opinion for all to see. How does it translate to action though? Many of us are people of many words, but few actions. Many of us are vocally engaged in idealistic crusades, but internally consumed in the battle for ourselves, while practically fighting for a sense of significance. What challenges us to go beyond the fashionable relativisms of importance and become authentic agents of purpose and change; to be more than a mincing of words or a phlegmatic statement in objection, to be greater than the possibility of hope in desolate times, and to live overflowing with the contagious abundance of reality and truth? The answers are not held in the human resolution of their own dilemma. As a result of this human condition and in lieu of the idea Mr. Lincoln surmised in the impasses of human perspective and disagreement upon reality, there is action needed which transcends the limitation we are caught in. We are in need of liberty; true liberty. We seek the liberation from the oppression of the human limitations of our circumstances. The day is approaching when we will rest in the peace of the true liberty we seek. The day is coming for our hope to be fulfilled.
In our concepts of perception, we must not be victims of Lincoln’s statement on liberty. We must not be swayed by the relevance of truth defined by opinion, position or circumstances. Truth stands on its own, independent of point of view. Understanding the truth of liberty is essential to seeking liberty. As we see, the wolf and the sheep view liberty from a self-centered construct and misunderstand it in turn. For those of us caught in the human condition, the focusing of reality and conceptual understanding on the self is quite common. In the language of absolute truth, the fettered focus of the self is what leads to the perversion of truth for a subjective interpretation and a self-delusional reality.
The focus on self is the essence of the fallen human condition. You may term it evil, pain and suffering or civil human rights violations, though it is all plainly exacted within the word “sin”. Romans 3:23 says, “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God;” or rather, all have made the central focus of their lives themselves, when it should have been securely focused on God. The culmination of our true liberty is to be free of the penalty of sin; and in response to our liberty we retain a life focused on Him. We focus on ourselves every day, yet it is this centering on Him which redeems us to our true experience of liberty. What we find is that when we misalign our liberty with our action, we subtly turn to seeking ourselves, and instead of a truthful reality we end up getting an interpretation of circumstances from the self-perceived reality. Unfortunately, the result of allowing the change in perception is a self-focused truth of the situation which becomes a sought after form of self-destruction, and we detach ourselves further from reality and move to the biased perspective of our own agenda. Maybe it comes in the form of guilt or depression, we might be paranoid in circumstance or self-consciously lashing out at others in response; the effects of the self taking center stage in reality blinds us to the possibilities which we would clearly see with the Christ-centric reality of truth. The further along we are in this habit or the more extreme our conviction to our own perspective, the more we isolate ourselves and continue to retreat into obscurity. As Brennan Manning says, “Sin always involves some form of self-destruction, for it smothers a man with his own egoism and solitude.” When we engage our world with sin at the forefront of our perception, our disillusionment can choke us into only searching for our own benefits and pleasures. Ken Keyes, Jr. talks about this as he describes how our energy levels will be at their lowest when we interact with the world with self-seeking as the initial parameter. We will convert our relationships with others into a trap of conflicting conditions, based in soothing the self and controlling conflicts. As a result, our relationships exist only for our satiation, our idealisms are tempered by our own convenience and our passions become our impulsive masters instead of our potent servants. Fortunately for us, Jesus Christ provided the gracious liberty of the penalty of our sin. He liberated us from the burden of self. Self-achieving, self-controlling, self-damnation, self-justification, self-conceit; the grace of Christ covers a multitude of sin and allows us to know the true liberty from the human condition.
As we grow in our ability to focus on Him and our interaction with his fierce mercy, we come to know the freedom in Him from our guilt, shame and despair of the human condition. In the hope He has promised, his free gift of grace breaks into our hearts and restores us amidst the idealistic misconceptions of our human condition, and fulfills the necessity for lasting significance and liberation from sin. Instead of our own idealistic crusades, we near the Fathers heart of love, forgiveness and peace. In response to this nearness, we know that we are not alone – The Lord gives us his Spirit to keep us from isolation. He is with us though our interactions with a world focused on itself, covered in sin, and keeps us centered on Him through the difficulty. He also gives us community in others who are also seeking Him above themselves to be a comfort and to be companions on the journey. Christ desires us to live in the communion of Himself and his community. He desires the social connection of our hearts to his. He supports us with the further connectivity of his community. When we turn our focus inward we become antisocial. When we take Christ from the center of our hearts and replace Him with ourselves, we are forced to embrace the human condition echoing in us to the core and the isolation of ourselves from the hope and peace of his presence. When we focus on God, our social connection to Him removes the imposition of the prison of egoism and solitude. When we recoil to the self-centered focus, the fallen human condition consumes us; the self seduces us to be callous to others needs in regard for our own. We, in turn, lose our correct view of truth and tenderness and insensitivity becomes our lifestyle. He uses our connection with others to further our connection to Himself. He keeps our hearts tender and sensitive to his Spirit, and in response, to others. Our focus on Him allows us to see others with his liberating heart for them. When we use his eyes to see their own struggle through the human condition, we have the ability to show them compassion based in the grace we know that has been extended to us.
In the action of response and the exercising of liberty, let us go forward reflecting the contagious abundance of reality and truth. Let us know the hope which is only seen in the centering of a life on Christ. Let us not be swayed by subjective constructs which try to focus our perception on ourselves. Let us engage others with the knowledge of our understanding and compassion, as well as the joys of true liberty. As Hebrews 10 suggests, let us hope in his faithful promise until his fulfilling of it. Let us draw near to the presence of God with sincere hearts and a full assurance of faith. For our hearts have been cleansed us from a sinful conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess; for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage each other all the more as we see the day approaching.