“Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” ~ John 8.36
Issued on January 1, 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, today marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. But, despite what was written on these sheets of paper and proclaimed from the mouth of one of this nation’s political leaders and even the Civil War wherein countless lives were loss, the people of the United States of America were not free. Truth be told, we are still not free. We are not free of the hatred, cultural pride, greed and willful ignorance that led to this proclamation because human words and weaponry are not true tools for human liberation. And no amount of human blood will restore what has been broken within us.
We remain bound in ways we know not because of sin, uncertain of where the rope begins and the knots end, unable to remember when the first loop was made around our wrists and ankles. So tangled are we in the mess of race and its progeny that we have come to believe that our lives are the rope and knots– tied, tight, constrained. We are used to moving and living with restrictions. We have a love that is bound, restricting the fluidity of our relationships, the circulation of our forgiveness and the activity of our faith.
What we write on paper, proclaim from our mouths or fight for and against cannot and does not free us– not in the manner in which we need. Despite the fact that no word yet exists that could fully capture the feeling of this expansive healing power satisfying the need for deliverance from sin, the wholeness to be enjoyed and the fullness of life experienced, we know as believers, that it is possible in and through Christ Jesus. So, there are no words and our mouths are mere participants not the agent of this inward change. They could not express the power of such a reality, this freedom that Christ gives. We can only confess our need for it, the ways in which we are bound and the desire to be released from these personal, familial and social bondages.
This freedom that Christ grants us cannot be bought. It is not something that we can pay Jesus back for. It is not a gift given in exchange for the position of servant for Christ’s freedom was given in and out of love, paying a debt that we could not possibly satisfy, wanting only our friendship (John 15.15).
But, the freedom that we, humans, offer always desires or requires something in return. This freedom is never full or forever. It is not without stipulation or the possibility of reversal despite our best intentions and good feelings around the event. So long as we are slaves to sin, we are slaves to each other, binding and being bound, loosing only to change the rope or tighten its grip. It is only in Christ that we are truly emancipated, granted a freedom that does not enslave us to the master of history and with it, unforgiveness.