The Rev. Dr. Wesley Hill
If our nation has a favorite word, it is probably the word freedom. “Let freedom ring!” we say. “The land of the free!” we call ourselves. “It’s a free country!” we celebrate. But what exactly is the freedom most of us have in mind? For most of us Americans, I imagine, we mean something like the liberty to do what we want. Or, in more technical language, the absence of constraints.
In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus says about himself: “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” That phrase “free indeed” is interesting because it implies that there is a kind of freedom that is real or true freedom, distinct from other sorts of freedom that turn out not to be real freedom at all. “Free indeed.” What does it mean to be “free indeed,” to experience real freedom?
One of the collects in the Prayer Book guides us in saying these words to God: “to serve you is perfect freedom.” Strangely, it is in serving God — in constraining ourselves to follow God’s will, even when it might not be what we want to do — that we experience what it means to be “free indeed.” It isn’t the lack of constraints that makes us truly free. It is when we submit ourselves to the way of Jesus, to loving God and others just as he did, that we will know what perfect freedom is really all about.
The Rev. Dr. Wesley Hill is an assisting priest at Trinity Cathedral and an associate professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. He is the author most recently of The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father (Lexham Press, 2019).