I woke up Tuesday morning and followed my regular routine.
I turned on the coffee pot.
I flipped on the news.
I checked my email.
I grabbed a bowl of cereal and newly brewed coffee and parked myself on the couch.
I greeted my children as they came down the stairs after a pleasant night’s sleep. I greeted my wife and thanked her for making the coffee the night before. I peered out the window to check the snow level and discovered school had been canceled…again.
We watched the opening minutes of the Today Show.
We sent the kids to their rooms to get ready.
I turned on a nice hot shower and got dressed.
I made my way through the snow to the office, for what I assumed would be another quiet snowy day.
I turned on the coffee pot to heat water for tea as I do every day.I read my devotions and prayed. Sitting there I realized how much I take for granted as givens in my life:
-A safe place for my loved ones to live.
-Food in the fridge, and fresh coffee to brew.
-Hot running water – running water at all.
-Living in a time and place that may turn a blind eye to faith or even make fun of those who worship, but still, is the most free place to worship God as any place in the world.
The people of Egypt have taken to the streets.
So have the people of Tunisia.
As have the people of Yemen.
The King of Jordan dismissed its cabinet yesterday.
Others may be in hiding, in waiting, hoping for their time to come.
It is easy to see them as so different from us – many have a different faith, a different culture, a different sense of place, and perhaps even different values than we do.
Yet, are they not the same as you and me?
Don’t they want a better life for their kids? Food on their table? A safe place to live? Opportunities to make something of themselves without fear of retribution from those in power?
Freedom to live their faith and seek God’s will in their lives?
For years now the media (of all stripes) has painted those who live in the Middle East as our enemies. As those who want nothing more than to destroy us in the name of faith. Of course there are some people that think that way, but not the majority. Those who have taken to the streets do not seem that different to me than those who dumped tea in the Boston Harbor, or those who stormed Versailles, or those who marched with Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. or those who toppled the Berlin Wall, or those who stood in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square.
People have an innate need to be free. Society has an innate need for order. We need both things, and when one breaks down for the sake of the other we are left with either chaos or oppression.
There is a lot of chaos and a lot of oppression in this world. Most of this human destruction is rooted in our ongoing desire to try to be our own god. Those who advocate anarchy believe that no one (not even God) can tell them what to do – that they are in control of their own destiny. Tyrants believe the responsibility that has been entrusted to them to create and mandate order is license to oppress, be cruel, and stamp out their enemies for their own gain.
Martin Luther described the Christian life as both bound and free. Luther said, “A Christian is Lord of all, completely free of everything, and a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.” (Martin Luther. The Freedom of a Christian. trans. Mark D. Tranvik. [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008], p. 50.)
What Luther meant was this: In regards to God, we are free – Christ has made us free, and nothing, not even the gates of hell can keep us from the love God gives us in Jesus (see Romans 8). But the story does not end there. In regards to our neighbor, to other people, we are bound, obligated, and called to serve; to give of ourselves for them as Christ gave his life for us. This is what it means to “pick up your cross and follow” (Matthew 16:24). This is a far different definition of freedom than we are used to hearing. It is not economic, political, or social…except that it is. To be free, to be truly free, is to give yourself away, as Christ gives himself to you. This is what it means to enter the kingdom of God.
The people in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and in the oppressed lands throughout this earth yearn for freedom. Time will tell what that yearning may ask of us. For now, the situation requires our prayers.
I woke up this morning and the situation has worsened. Now the threat of violence pervades everything. As I poured my morning coffee, I prayed for peace, for calm, for prudence in the days ahead.
Give yourself away in prayer today for the people who need it; both abroad and in your life. Stick up for a friend. Befriend someone who needs it. Comfort someone who needs your strength. Today is no ordinary day. You have been called to freedom in the love of God, to bring freedom in the life of others.
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)