The Paradox of Freedom: A Message from Executive Director Chris Purnell


Executive Director Chris Purnell

What comes to mind when you think of “freedom?” For me, it’s a multi-media physical experience: it smells like burnt hot dogs, looks like a flag unfurled in patriotic splendor, and sounds like the pop and fizz of fireworks in the sky. It looks red, white, and blue to me because of my upbringing and my status as an American.

In our national mythology, we believe that George III was wrong to tax us without allowing us to be represented in Parliament (though political scientists will quibble about that). Thus, demigods like George Washington, Paul Revere, and Sam Adams had to step up, Avengers-style, and knock some British skulls around. In the crucible of angst and rebellion, America happened—and a nation that fought for freedom, but that defended slave labor was born.

And that’s the paradox of being human. We love freedom—but we use it to enslave. Today’s freedom fighter is tomorrow’s oppressive dictator. We are “bent,” as C.S. Lewis put it, towards destruction and we use our power to take it away from others. Not only do we enslave others, but also we allow ourselves to be enslaved by meager things. I rush around, looking for something else to occupy my time and entertain me and fulfill me and satisfy me. We enslave—we are enslaved.

And then, there’s Jesus. According to Christian theology hammered out at the Council of Chalcedon, Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. He had all of the power that came with being God. And yet, he gave it all up and became nothing for our sake, for the sake of broken humanity. The Apostle Paul says that Jesus became a servant and died for us (Philippians 2:7). The Master of everything became a Slave of everyone.

This is brain-puree stuff. God giving up the privileges of being God to become a servant. But it is also the achingly beautiful picture of what salvation looks like. Jesus frees us by becoming a slave—and he calls us to imitate him by using our freedom to be a servant to everyone.

And that’s the paradox of being a Christian. We are free to serve everyone. We have liberty to give up our rights. This, like most things about following Jesus, hurts. At the Clinic, we walk that path with halting steps. We submit ourselves to our clients, serving them and partnering with them through cataclysmic times.

Jesus said that he came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life up for us all (Mark 10:45). How do you use your freedom to serve others in both big and small ways? Please share these ways in the comments below—and then act.

Until justice and peace embrace,

Chris Purnell e-sig Black 2015



Chris Purnell

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