Last of Human Freedoms

Devotional Message delivered to the Oklahoma House of Representatives on February 7, 2019.

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The Last of Human Freedoms
OK House Devotional Message
February 7, 2019

Good morning:

I want to first thank Speaker Charles McCall for asking me to serve as chaplain for the OK House of Representatives in the 57th Legislature. His confidence in me is most humbling – And I also thank every member of this esteemed body – for your generosity toward me since first launching a ministry in Oklahoma a number of years ago.

You should also know my mind on this appointment – This office is not mine, but the chaplaincy for this House belongs to you. It is a ministry of encouragement and prayer, regardless of person, position, party, or the policies you take up. It is a service based in the simple belief that before you are a politician or elected official, you are people on a journey of public service and leadership.

Each Thursday, the chaplain is afforded a brief time for a devotional message and my plan this session is to look at the last two chapters of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia – specifically looking at that well-known passage popularly called the Fruit of the Spirit.

Why are we looking at the Fruit of the Spirit, you might ask… Well, you are all lawmakers after all, and Paul concludes this list with the statement – “Against such things there is no law.” I promise, Mr. Speaker, that’s as close as I’ll ever get to commenting on policy… Of course, that’s not the sort of law Paul had in mind.

As a brief introduction, today, let’s consider how Paul leads into the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:1, he writes, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Three simple truths are immediately evident:

  1. People are not free.
  2. Christ sets people free.
  3. Christ sets people free, for freedom’s sake.

The cause of freedom is ensconced in our nation’s DNA – in the opening of the Declaration of Independence, that we hold these truths self-evident, all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights… life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Freedom, though a divinely endowed right, is not the inherent reality of humanity. All around the world, we find people oppressed by forces outside themselves, governments, and institutions that limit their freedom. Within our own nation’s history, freedom is a work in progress. This passage is Biblical promise that promoting freedom is a most Christ-like and godly endeavor.

But even if a person is blessed enough to live in a free society, without external constraints, they can still find themselves in captivity and lacking the very freedom they were designed to enjoy. Earlier this week, columnist, Jonathan Merritt, wrote, “Every human is both the jailer and the inmate in their own life. We are incarcerated by our bad habits, dark tendencies, and hurtful propensities.”

You may be familiar with the story of Victor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a prominent 20th Century philosopher of psychology and is best known for his contributions to what we know as existential therapy. In 1942, Frankl and his parents, wife, and brother were arrested and sent to the Thereisienstadt concentration camp; Frankl’s father died there within six months. Over the course of three years, Frankl was moved between four concentration camps, including Auschwitz where his brother died and his mother was killed. Frankl’s wife died at Bergen-Belsen. When Frankl’s camp was liberated in 1945, he learned of the death of all his immediate family members, with the exception of his sister who had emigrated to Australia. In the camps, Frankl and fellow prisoners made an effort to address the despondency they observed in other inmates.

It was said that while in the concentration camps, Victor Frankl could predict which prisoners possessed the “quality within” to survive this atrocity. He later developed a therapeutic practice based on Soren Kirkegaard’s concept of will to meaning, and he believed that people were not driven by pleasure or passion – as other psychologists and therapists of his day asserted – but the search for meaning.

Frankl observed, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I’ve studied psychology, philosophy, and theology… I’m not an expert in any of these disciplines, but I find this truth reverberates through scripture: this last of human freedoms is in fact a universal grace from God and compels me to believe that God designed people to live in freedom.

The message of Jesus, his work on the cross, and gospel proclaimed by his followers for two millennia is that the greatest experience of freedom happens within the human heart – no matter what happens around you.

We never stop pursuing freedom in other arenas of society and the world, but when Paul says, Christ set us free, he means us to know that God can release in me and in you, a deep freedom of the soul, the mind, the heart.

The Fruit of the Spirit is a discussion about what freedom looks like. So, what does a mind, or a heart that is set free look like? It looks like lovejoy… peace… patience… kindness… goodness… faithfulness… gentleness… and self-control.

What happens when freedom manifests in a person’s life in these ways? They find the deep meaning for their life – through work and vocation, public service and politics, to live each and every day in order to impact the lives of people they meet, and the power to survive even unbearable conditions.

People are meant to be free – and for freedom, Christ has set us free.

Please pray with me…

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