This is a guest post from Maria Andrawis - a proud member of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax, VA. Maria is currently traveling around the Middle East working with an international NGO and here she shares some insights she's gained from being in that area during some very turbulent times. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guideline for more info.
"If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed." - Jesus
Recently, I've been thinking about the idea of liberty and what it really means. Growing up in the United States, I didn't realize how rare it is in the world. Oppression was just a history lesson – an exception rather than a rule. But in traveling to different parts of the world for my job (not to mention in turning on the television every day), I've seen that this isn't the case.
Instead, the world attests to countless people whose souls yearn for freedom but can’t find it. You can hear it in their conversations, in their arguments, in their songs, and in their protests and marches. They come from every religious and social background. They sit in smoke-filled coffee shops and large squares either dreaming of or fighting for their freedom.
Seeing all of this, I can't help but take stock of the many facets of my own freedom, such as:
- the political freedom to think, express, vote, and worship without fear of punishment
- the economic freedom to buy all of my needs and most of my wants
- the social freedom to work, travel, even walk down the street as a female without harassment, intimidation, or violence.
- the personal freedom of being young and single, free to choose what I want do and what I want to be – free to decide my future.
Most people in the world have none of this. Freedom is a gift, and a costly one at that – one that I don't believe God gives us to simply appreciate only.
So if I have what so many people in the world are giving their lives and futures for, what am I doing with it?
Unfortunately, often the answer to that question for most of us is: "not much." Despite all my freedoms, I rarely enjoy them because I'm instead wrapped up in a web of internal prisons - prisons of obligation, guilt, distraction, fears. And yet what's strange is that the Son has already freed me from all of these.
Liberty and freedom are key themes throughout the New Testament. Both Christ and St. Paul talk about it at length, and our Lord even used the passage from Isaiah, "The Lord has anointed me to preach liberty to the captives" (Luke 4:18) as His opening statement to the world.
Christ came to give us freedom, but He didn't grant the physical freedoms that we so often think of. Instead He offers us a new kind of freedom, one which frankly I don't think we understand, and therefore we choose to stick to our old prisons.
As much as I admire the young revolutionaries around the world, I’ve seen that it’s often easier to dream of and fight for freedom than to work in and act upon the freedom one already has.
But what if that were to change? We're now seeing the impact that people can have in fighting for freedom. What would it look like to have a generation of believers, working and fighting in freedom? I don’t know what that would look like, but I think it’s rooted less in what we have and more in whose we are.
St. Paul likens liberty to the “spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15). Those who are sons often look no different than the servants, but their profound difference is that they never fear getting kicked out of the house. They never get fired. They never have to fight for an inheritance. Why? Because they know it’s all theirs.
What would it look like if we were to live our lives that same way?
So this year, in addition to praying for all those fighting for their physical liberty today, I’m praying and asking for a vision of my own freedom – how to live in physical and spiritual freedom. I know longer want to live dreaming of a freedom I already have. Instead, I want to see what God can do with that freedom.
For discussion: what does the expression "freedom in Christ" mean to you?