The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. — Isaiah 61:1
Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. — John F. Kennedy
Freedom is ultimately something that each of us must choose for ourselves. But external circumstances can make it easier or harder for each of us to make that choice. People who live in fear of violence or of starvation can still choose freedom, but they are apt to be more preoccupied with survival. People who are surrounded by constant distractions and cushioned from the consequences of their choices can still choose freedom, but they are less likely to stop and think about it. People who see a truth that the rest of their community chooses not to see can still choose freedom, but they are more likely to shrink back for fear of being rejected by those they love.
If we truly value our own freedom we must do what we can to make it easier for others to choose freedom as well. First we must examine the ways in which we make it harder for them. Do we vote for policies that lead to more people living in war zones or in desperate poverty? Do we buy products grown or manufactured by people who are frightened, overworked and underpaid? Do we overschedule and overindulge our children so that they don’t take time to think their own thoughts and take responsibility for their own actions? Do we turn against people who disagree with us, or who point out uncomfortable truths? We need to wean ourselves from doing these things. Then we can listen for what else we may be called to do to help ‘proclaim liberty to the captives’.
There are many pathways to this work: campaigning for just laws or for worker protection, reaching out to the victims of war and natural disasters, challenging comfortable people to think critically, counseling those whose freedom is hindered by mental illness, trauma or addiction, and many others. We may not find many other people engaged in our particular calling, but we can take heart when we remember how many people work in other ways to help bring themselves and their neighbors into ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’.