“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that this is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
~ Nelson Mandela “Long Walk to Freedom” (1994)
The smoke has cleared from last night’s fireworks. The grills have all cooled down. For many, freedom will tend to be an afterthought the rest of the year. I’m not just talking about the physical freedoms we enjoy in the United States (and other parts fo the world), but I am wanting us to look deeper into this concept of freedom…freedom of the individual’s mind, heart and soul.
I’ve said it so many times before, there is someone waiting for you on the other side of your promise. The freedom you receive is not just for you, but for your family, friends and neighbors. It’s not enough to just be free yourself, but we must seek to make the lives of those around us better…that they may enjoy freedom as well.
Many years ago, I was given a letter, signed by Nelson Mandela, reminding me of the victories we have seen, and the long road ahead of us in the effort to love our neighbor. People sometimes ask me why I continue to do what I do. It is because, it is my responsibility and privilege to share the same freedom given my family years ago with those who are open to hear. I share in the burden to bring people into freedom…not just physically, but spiritually and mentally as well.
For those of you who live in freedom (which is most of you), be challenged to extend the opportunity of freedom to those around you through serving one another humbly in love. This is a fundamental part of loving your neighbor. True freedom comes with responsibility.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5:13-14
“The oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.” Oppressors are in slavery and desire to see others in it as well. My niece says it this way, “Hurt people hurt people.” We must seek freedom not just for the slave, but also for the master. Understanding that love, mercy and grace is a gift…an opportunity for freedom…for all, is the essence of being free.