Of Freedom and Slavery
“You willingly call yourselves slaves!” I often get to hear this from the critics of Christianity. It reflects a common and deeply held stereotype, even among the highly educated. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of the foundations of the Christian faith. Yet I encounter it with great regularity in my discussions with the critics – they seriously believe that our trust in God is an antagonist to human freedom.
My response to them is simple: we build our lives on values, and by referring to themselves as the slaves of God Christians affirm that God – which is love – is their ultimate value in their lives. They are slaves of God, not anyone or anything else.
In a sense, we are all slaves, because we all depend on someone or something in our lives. Some are slaves of sexual pleasure, others of money or power, still others of career success, glory, or professional recognition.
Yet if there is one thing that we can learn from human history and experience, it is that we have all sought to free themselves of this slavery to all sorts of worldly things. We can win such freedom only by looking towards God and calling ourselves the slaves of God. We are slaves, but not in the meaning attributed to this word throughout history as someone with no citizenship or rights. We are slaves because we are not bound in this life by anything else but God. We follow His calling by living our lives in Christ. In other words, a slave of God has absolute freedom from being dependent on anything else. We are slaves of God, and nobody and nothing else. We liberate ourselves by advancing towards sainthood.
As I wrote in an article for a fine magazine which I co-authored with a colleague, it is not good enough for us Christians to say of ourselves, “I am not a saint”. It is a lame excuse because, for a Christian, sainthood means freedom from sin, and living free from sin is the norm, not an exception.
Admittedly, this norm may be hard to realise in our fallen world. Yet this is our ultimate calling. It is not straightforward; moreover, it is paradoxical in many ways. As we hear in a hymn that sung at the liturgy, “For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord”. Yet at the same time, the Lord says to us in the Scripture: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy (Leviticus 19:2). This commandment should guide the life of every Christian. Anyone who desires genuine freedom should take these words as the principle of their life.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds