“Freedom!!!” I can still hear William Wallace shout this out in the epic Braveheart scene as he awaited his executioner. It sent chills down the spines of millions of viewers who felt that emotion in the depths of their being. This part of the movie was so powerful to all of us; not because deep down we are all Scottish rebels seeking freedom from English oppression, it’s because we were all made free from the very beginning!
Unfortunately, this great gift of freedom was abused. We chose (and continue to choose) bondage, and ever since God has been working overtime to try to restore us to freedom. This movie captured our hearts and imaginations because this is our story! Recall the words of Wallace’s classic and inspiration rally speech, listening with spiritual ears this time:
“You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?... And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!” (Braveheart).
With that, the Scottish men go charging out after their enemy, literally running into the battle! This is our battle cry. Through the course of this journey we will identify our enemy and in the name of freedom, engage in the battle. We will confront the enemy.
God created us in his image and likeness, the Imago Dei. You see, God himself is free, and since we are mysteriously made like him, we too must be free! But when we sin, this image is distorted and we lose that freedom. We become less human. Sin, in a word, dehumanizes us. Sin enslaves us.
Even in our sinfulness, God the Father unceasingly loves us as his children, with a patient, potent and permanent pursuit. He became a man like us, died for us, rose for us, sent us his Spirit, and gave (and continues to give) us his live-giving resurrected body as our daily bread. Why such extremes? St. Paul proclaims, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
Our God goes to great lengths to restore us to freedom and unbind us from the chains of sin. Christ himself exhorts us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). We will get into this more deeply as we progress, but we don’t have to wait until the New Testament to see God’s desire in action as we read from the Old Testament:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord...“Let my people go…”(Exodus 9:1).
I want you to stop for a moment to really understand this next statement and take it in deeply: Your freedom is God’s initiative! This will be a recurring theme in this book and in your life. God will never stop pursuing your freedom. It was his initiative to create you free and it’s his initiative to restore you to freedom. Our job is to trust in God, trust in his ways, trust in his goodness, and cooperate and work with him in his plan for our lives. The real issue is trust! This notion that surrendering our lives fully over to God will somehow restrict our freedom, take away our fun and bring us less joy is a straight-up twisted lie. And every single time we sin, we fall into that lie hook-line and sinker:
“Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness” (CCC 397).
God has had a plan to restore our freedom ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, and he has a plan for your freedom today. He has a plan to free you from the source of your bondage, no matter how helpless it may seem. Yes, the Lord used Moses as an instrument for his people’s freedom, but it was indeed God taking the lead. Notice God’s strategy, his battle plan if you will. He focuses directly on the source of their bondage. “Go in to Pharaoh, and say to him…‘Let my people go…’”(Exodus 9:1).
In order for us to be set free, we are going to have to identify and confront the very source of our bondage. We can all relate deeply to this story of Pharaoh and the Israelites. Our daily struggle with the bondage of sin and need for God’s goodness and mercy is as relevant today as it was at the time of Moses.