Recently I popped to the supermarket for a few things. Someone asked me about our Remembrance Service and what it was all about.
I mentioned remembering those who’d died, sharing our sorrow, and thankfulness. He went on to suggest that we were thankful for our freedom; I agreed, but without much enthusiasm, I suspect.
There are two reasons that freedom wasn’t high on my mental list of things we are thankful for in the context of Remembrance.
One is that, whereas I think we can reasonably view the Second World War as having protected our freedom, I’m not at all sure that we can view more recent conflicts in the same way.
The second, and more important, reason is that I’m uncertain about how much freedom we really have.
Think about politics.
We’re free to choose our Government, or so we think, but voting for anyone who doesn’t represent one of the two major parties is unlikely to have much effect, and both parties seem to act in remarkably similar ways when they are in power.
But we can do what we like, within the law, can’t we? Well, many of us can do quite a lot, I suppose, but I wonder how much genuine freedom of choice people paid the minimum wage, or the living wage, for that matter, really have: they can afford little more than the essentials and, even where essentials are concerned, their budgets probably only run to the cheapest available.
What about our life plans? Are we free to choose what we do with our lives? Our jobs? The relationships we’d like to have? Well, even here, our plans are limited by our imagination, and that is generally limited by what we see people around us doing, and by the image of ourselves that those people give us.
So where and when are we free? I think, despite the ‘dos and don’ts’ we usually associate with the Bible, that we’re truly free in our relationship with God. God loves each one of us infinitely, and his delight is for us to be the people he’s always intended us to be: our true selves.
When we are our true selves, what we want is what God wants, and the ‘dos and don’ts’ become the things we genuinely want and don’t want. And then the things we normally think of as freedoms aren’t nearly as important to us as we thought.