I remember watching Nelson Mandela on the television news programmes. The ones where it was his birthday, or some national celebration. Nelson was ageing and he would be pictured sat in his armchair. Mute. Still. More a prop than a person. Less able to take part. His eyes the only thing moving. Roaming slowly over those around him. I always thought it unfair of the “political industry” to wish to roll him out and put him on display like a shop-window mannequin. Poor old chap.
The lord still plucking odd thoughts and links when we sit together over a cuppa and few verses each morning …
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Luke 11:14-23
And the words triggering today’s pondering came before reaching these verses: ”Lord, may I never take the gift of freedom for granted.” http://www.sacredspace.ie/
For it seems to me this word “freedom” is also another over-used under-understood word. Another abused “universal” we all bandy around like a name badge.
Nelson Mandela knew what it was to be free. Not “outside” and externally. He knew freedom in its true sense: inside where the good (and bad) stuff happens. He lived so many years “a prisoner” who was free inside his heart. And when he was free of prison … free to move freely, free to live freely, free to be himself – then he was not “free” to do all those things. He had the entire country’s – world’s – expectations on his shoulders. He continued to choose to be free inside where it matters.
The rest of us? We are “free” to live where we wish, do what we want, be who we desire. Yet how free are we really? Inside where it matters.
Inside where our God has set us free. Really free. Free from sin. Free from doubt. Free from regret. Free from earning our way to anything. Freely given for free.
The externals I see and hear and read?
How much free time do I have, how much money should I tithe, how much volunteering should I do, how much money do I have left after paying my bills, why did “church” do me over, following Jesus is hard, deny the flesh, sacrifice, serve, sit in a pew, give to the poor, do NOT judge, do NOT swear (or cuss I think the US says), do NOT DO ANYTHING that is much fun.
It is all about being a prisoner. Chained to other people’s expectations. Rules and Regs. Lists and Transactions. Handcuffed and bound to “me me me”. Deep inside where the good (and bad) stuff lives freely or feels persecuted.
Because as I read those verses from Luke, the phrase: ”Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.” ran around the room, leaped through the window and headed in a straight line to “Church.” And sat there looking. Mute. Still. Only its eyes roaming slowly. Accusing.
Nelson Mandela – rolled out and propped up for the cameras – he knew. He knew what he represented to so many. He knew that simply being there – unmoving, still, mute – that was enough. It was what others needed. It was necessary. It was his choice. It was his freedom. It was what he did. What he believed. Right up to his final breath. With a passion behind those slow roaming eyes. Inside where the good stuff happens.
I saw a poor old chap who should have been left to enjoy his latter years. He saw others. And what they needed. And was “free inside” enough to give “freely outside.”
And my thought this morning?
It isn’t “the devil” and demons dividing the Kingdom of God … becoming a Lost World … a desert of unbelief … falling in on itself. It is “us believers” … followers of the way … all insisting we reject this freedom from sin, we reject this freedom of grace, we reject freedom inside where it matters.
And by rejecting the gift of Love – we are not free. We are prisoners to ourselves, this world and each other. We don’t need to guard against the devil and demons and all that sin stuff. By rejecting freedom from sin, by preferring rules we can see, lists we can touch and “keep to” (when it suits) … by arguing about who we should love, how we should love, when we should love – and (BY THE WAY) what about me? – we divide ourselves.
And – as Don Merritt added in a comment yesterday here (paraphrasing freely – sorry Don) – by preferring rules we ALWAYS end up looking down on others, labelling and categorising God’s creations. Setting ourselves apart as better. Chaining ourselves to “me.” Rejecting freedom. Rejecting God and Love and all we spout and write and say and (not) do.
Who are we trying to kid here? The gift of real freedom? Please take it for granted. It is about time we did.
I am with Nelson. Nelson is with God. Who are you with?