Every human heart desires freedom. Born into a fractured world, we feel the weight of that fracture from very early on. And we fight to find escape from it. The reason I am driven or lazy, the reason I pursue relationships or hide from relationships, the reason I’m honest or I’m a liar is that I am searching for freedom from the things that haunt me, from that gnawing inside of me, from the things that weigh me down, from that inner turmoil. We’re all seeking freedom. We all want it.
It starts early, with this kind of thinking:
“I can’t wait for high school.”
“I can’t wait ‘til I can drive.”
“I can’t wait ‘til I get a good job, a wife, a family, a bigger house, a retirement package…”
We believe that freedom from our brokenness is somewhere out in front of us in the form of our next relationship, possession or circumstance. But when we reach the “next thing,” we find there is some other thing after it just waiting to be pursued. In our self-seeking freedom worship, we believe that the “next thing” on our happiness list will bring us wholeness.
That’s utter narcissism. And there’s no freedom in it.
We long for freedom and, left to our own devices, we search for it only in wrong places. But we are not wrong to long for it. The claim of Christ is, “I’ve called you to it. I’ve called you to freedom.” Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We are all after freedom, and that freedom is found in Christ. But that freedom has not been given to us so that it might terminate on us. Rather, as Paul notes, the true way to freedom is to give ourselves away.
Paul points us to the words of Jesus: “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’" (Gal. 5:14). We are to look at our neighbor and recognize that they deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that we are. They’re worthy of our service, worthy of our love. But our selfishness causes us to seek our own freedom on our own terms, without regard to our neighbors’ well-being. We think pursuing our own happiness will set us free.
True freedom comes when we follow the example of Christ to empty ourselves in service to others. That kind of freedom is the only logical response to the knowledge that we have been set free from the penalty of our sin. It causes us to look outward to the needs of others instead of inward because our greatest need has been met. That gnawing inside of us has been quelled. That inner turmoil has been laid to rest. We turn from worship of our own needs to worship of God, and the scales fall from our eyes. We see the needs of others in a new and urgent light.
This happens at The Village in beautiful ways:
Shifting our focus away from ourselves may require something as simple as mowing a neighbor’s lawn or as complex as moving to another continent. But it will always involve risk, and it will always involve cost—the risk of building relationships and the cost of personal comfort.
But be honest. Aren’t you bored with chasing narcissism dressed as false freedom? Every new device, every new pair of shoes, new flooring, new car, new vacation—every “I can’t wait until…” wants to lure you into the chase. You were reborn for bigger things, riskier things. You were reborn for true freedom.
Waging in your soul and in mine is the war for freedom. Don’t make the costly mistake that narcissistic desires will get us there. My hope is that, by the power of the Spirit, we would put to death the desire for self-gratifying, fleeting pleasures and that we would run to the freedom of loving God by loving and serving others—even when it’s risky, even when it’s costly.