Yeager column: Freedom can be frightening
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates tells a story about prisoners in a cave, bound so they can sense only one thing ó a large wall before them, on which shadows cast by the light behind them play back and forth. These shadows are all the prisoners know of their world. Plato teaches that most humans are bound never to leave their cave. They assume the images they see cast on the wall before them are all there is.
But some people, at a certain moment in their lives, are made free: free to turn around, free to behold the light, free to leave the cave. Freedom is good, but it is frightening as well ó all the old ideas they had are called into question, all the old assumptions proven wrong. Their efforts to free their fellow prisoners may be met with resistance and fear, not joy and wonder as they’d expect. Many people prefer bondage ó with safe assumptions and convenient half-truths ó to the hard truth of reality. But precious freedom is worth the effort, even though it costs so much more than safe, comfortable bondage.
Jesus had a lot in common with Socrates ó “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
Jesus says this, knowing that the freedom he teaches is far more demanding than the safe confinement his people are used to. His disciples exploded from Jerusalem out into the entire world, and changed everything ó but it cost many of them their lives, their families and their livelihoods. Freedom wasn’t free ó it was exhilarating, joyous, and powerful, but it cost them dearly.
We like to think others have paid for our freedom and indeed that is true, but no military can prevent us from enslaving ourselves to the powers of this world ó what the Bible calls the world, the flesh and the devil: ancient and malevolent powers that promise us security and comfort but deliver us into bondage and death.Americans today are enslaved beyond any military’s ability to liberate: Enslaved to Internet pornography, to drug addiction, to “entertainment at our fingertips” that promises, no matter what, to keep us from being bored. God forbid we be bored! Give us shadows that dance on our walls! That’s all we need right now!
But if we’re entertained 24/7, if we constantly have electronics or pharmaceuticals at our hands whenever we need them, what then of the difficult tasks of prayer, of meditation? How can we hear the voice of God? How can we see anything except the shadows playing on the wall?”If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…”
Jesus promises us so much, but only if we lay down the chains that are in our hands: Chains of instant gratification, chains of security and convenience. Jesus’ ways are ancient and powerful: prayer, meditating on God’s Word, and worship in communities of faith ó hard tasks in an age of instant gratification ó but if you want to be free, the Son can make you free indeed!
The Rev. Greg Yeager is pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, China Grove.