“If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” — Jesus
I RATHER LIKE the Bible Gateway version of this oft quoted passage: “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him: ‘If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth shall free you.'” (John 8:31-33)
According to their response to his words, what the Jews heard Jesus imply was that they would be free from bondage when they had never been slaves to anyone. The truth is, they were slaves to their beliefs, from which the experience of the truth would free them. But their beliefs were more sacred to them than the truth, were barriers that blocked them from even listening to another possibility. Two-thousands years later, we are still slaves to our beliefs.
The word belief derives from the Old English belefan, to allow. In other words, to be willing to go along with or let stand. Just for an example, if I told you that ambrosia has a heavenly flavor, you may or may not believe me. But once you have tasted ambrosia yourself, then you would know its heavenly flavor, and therefore would no longer need your belief. Freedom of speech does not give us the right to spread lies. If you tell a lie enough times, it will become a belief, an allowed, though “alternate,” fact. We are not free to have our own facts. What is is, and no belief will make it otherwise.
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
Here in America, we have what is called the “Bill of Rights” which grants us certain freedoms. Here is a brief summary of what these Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protects us from:
The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion; the right to fair legal procedure and to bear arms; and that powers not delegated to the federal government were reserved for the states…. (ConstitutionCenter.org)
Protection from slavery, in other words. Slavery to the rule and domination of others, especially the government, like what our forbearers experienced in England and what they rebelled against, ultimately escaping to America, “land of the free and the brave.” (Well, it was a land of freedom for the brave Native Americans, from which we drove them. But that’s another story, not unrelated, however, to our story today.) That’s still happening with emigrants facing deprivation, poverty, ethnic cleansing, and sure death in their homelands from oppressive regimes and terrorists as refugees cross seas and boundaries to find freedom here in America, many finding freedom only by drowning in those seas. It’s a monumental humanitarian crisis. From its inception, this is a nation of emigrants.
But we are not free nor protected from one another. And I think it’s because we feel we have the right to hate and kill those who seek to deprive us of our freedom and rights, freedom and right to be our separate and ugly human nature selves. We are slaves to our convictions about our “Constitutional rights.” But let’s be honest: our idea of freedom has deteriorated into a sense of privilege and entitlement — if it ever was anything more than that — even license. We do not have license to do something just because we can. We do not have license to hate and seek to kill those who are different from us, nor those whom we elect to make laws by which to govern. In truth — which is what we all profess to seek and uphold — we are not free to hate our neighbor. I enslave myself to hatred when I hate. I enslave myself to prejudice when I look upon others with distain for their differences. Our diversity is a large part of what makes America great.
Freedom in life comes with the experience of truth, and the truth of life is love. Love integrates not divides. Love creates not destroys. The secret of life, liberty and happiness is love; love of God first, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and love for one another as ourselves. There is no other commandment greater than these. As a matter of fact, we were admonished not to make any other laws than these, lest we be prevented from doing what is right according to circumstance and righteous judgement.
Now, there’s a controversial word: righteous. The instruction of the Teacher was that we should not judge “according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.” (John 7:24). What is righteous judgement? Righteous is a word that has long been used as a bludgeon by passionate evangelists. I was given a simple definition of righteous by my mentor: right-use. The right use of things according to their design and purpose. We would not, for example, use our automobile as a bulldozer. It wasn’t designed for that purpose. Nor is it righteous to use our human capacities of heart and mind as instruments of hate and resentment, nor for complaining and criticizing. They were not designed for those purposes. We wouldn’t use any part of our human capacities to do harm to ourselves or others — if we really are righteous. Finally, I don’t think we would use our right to free speech to give voice to hatred, prejudice, and other ill-begotten spirits — if we are truly righteous. We can love people as ourselves and not condone their ill-begotten behavior, even forgive them. That to me is righteous judgement.
License is a dangerous luxury we can ill afford. Freedom is a safe privilege derived from our experience of the truth, and when exercised to do only good for one another and for our planet.♥
JUST AS A CLOSURE, let me say that my readership is ever on my mind as I contemplate topics and write posts. At times I feel that I’m “preaching to the choir,” as the saying goes. There’s an old proverb that says something related to this:
“He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is asleep. Let him slumber. He who knows not and knows that he knows not is awakening. Be a light unto his dawn. He who knows and knows not that he knows is awake. Teach him. He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man. Pay heed unto his words.”
I write primarily with the second and third categories in mind. To my friends and colleagues of the fourth category, I ask you to simply join with me by receiving my words and the spirit they convey into your consciousness and thereby into the consciousness of the larger body of humanity. For this I thank you and bless you. Until my next post,
Be love. Be free.