Reflections on the Meaning of Freedom

Rob pic - website - first optionIn the history of mankind, we have seen this futility, where oppressive authorities fight to maintain power & inequality, and commoners fight for humanistic freedom – freedom from oppression but freedom to self-rule. And so not only has humanity dealt with systems of injustice, but since everything humanistic suffers from decay, like grass that withers over time, revolutions have themselves tended to become corrupted. A revolution is fundamentally flawed when it is inspired by a craving for the privileged condition of the oppressor. Such a craving has an underlying acknowledgement of the necessity to oppress, in order to achieve the same “privileged” condition of prosperity, as that of the oppressor. And such a craving therefore renders a revolution useless in time. For this reason, we’ve seen that passionate anger against injustice does not always make one a true advocate and ambassador of justice. Anger against unfairness must not always be equated to moral uprightness. In a day if injustice we may need angry activists, but in a day of freedom, we need morally upright visionaries. Precisely because of selfishness and injustice inherent in us, we can fight injustice against us. The wisdom of the Book of Psalms becomes a guiding moral compass in such a conflicted state. In Psalm 37:1-3 it states, “never envy the wicked! Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety”. That is, true prosperity is not only achieved through individualistic industriousness, but also by being kind to your fellow citizens – not only referring to personal kindness, but also systemic kindness. For truly, systemically evil and corrupt societies do not last, they eventually “fade away like grass”, just as the psalmist says. And in Ps 141:4 it states the same cry, “do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies”. Revolutions can therefore find themselves led by the most selfish and unjust of people, who simply have energy that is born out of anger. A true revolution must imagine and envision a new reality, one better than the “privileged conditions” of the oppressor. In other words, the true concept of “privilege” does not exist, as long as it is defined by the conditions or successes of the oppressor. Envisioning a new reality can sometimes lead to what looks like a form of temporary “material reversal” of one’s well-being, to achieve real Collective Well-being. This is because in the System of Creation, there is no well-being, except in the Collective. Biblically, this is what is implied in the word equity (that big word “justice” or righteousness), not meaning parity. This is exactly what Christ sought to achieve – He died in order to give life to mankind; He became sin in order to redeem us sinners, and to make us the righteousness of God, that is, to improve our human condition. He who was the only Son died in order to produce many sons. He took His privilege and extended it to the many. In this sense, the nations of the South (or the Global South) cannot base their model of prosperity upon the nations of the North (the Global North), simply because Global Humanity is yet to see a model of human prosperity that is free from oppression, blood guilt and colonialism. Even economic theories, models and graphs miss this nuance, of economic prosperity that is achieved fundamentally on the backs of slaves, and through discrimination and racism. Even the “American dream” is a construct of unjust gain, its equation is not without the component of slavery and racism. The disadvantage of humanity is that this is all we’ve seen in modern history, and this is all we know. This is the model of success that dominates our history books. So, for Africa to be exactly like Europe (or North America), Africa would have to create the same conditions that facilitated Europe’s and North America’s growth and development. We would have to start the process all over again, of taking slaves from Europe and North America across the ocean (or perhaps now by airplanes) back to Africa, to build our industries to what economists call “economic growth”. Does the African politician see this futility? Does he or she imagine a different model of development that achieves prosperity without violating mankind? Has this progressed from an idealistic wish to a conceptual reality that can become a real “household” of nations? Do African economists see this alternative reality? Does the economic equation work out, in the absence of discrimination and corruption? Or does it land us at the same position of greed as that of colonialists and oppressors, where we simply get “our turn to eat”? The Global South has a prophetic opportunity to establish a model of human prosperity that is free from blood guilt, injustice, racism and slavery. And if such a reality is achieved, not only will it usher in a new era of human well-being and prosperity in the Global South, it will also free the Global North from the bondage of its historical models of human existence. Essentially, this would usher in a new era of Global Humanity, presenting future generations with new platforms of scholarship. For this to be a reality, the Global South must begin to develop its youthful populations into a generation of scholars and prophets who will begin to imagine a better Human Arrangement and a better Social Contract. In other words, the new activist must move beyond the culture of street protest or of “lodging complaints”, he or she must possess the power to re-imagine a new vision, to communicate the vision and to mobilize around and towards the vision (Hab. 2:2-3). The new activist must possess the power to conceive a vision beyond a Class Struggle, a vision that seeks to liberate Global Humanity from a state of conflict with itself. It is for this reason that instead of staging a protest in Rome and against Caesar, as was the wish of his closest disciples (Acts 1:6), Christ went to die at the Cross, to establish a “new and a better way” of life (Heb. 10:19-22), not for a particular Class or People-Group, but for Global Humanity, including Caesar and Rome. If we choose to carry our own Cross to follow Him, we are embracing the same spirit, attitude and vision for Global Humanity. Furthermore, this process of re-imagining a better Human Arrangement must be triggered by a realization that in the abundance of scientific knowledge and theories of human prosperity, we have a drought and a deficit when it comes to concepts of human prosperity that are devoid of injustice. And so, in the continuum of time, where revolutions are inspired by the privileged conditions of oppressors, oppressive authorities and humanistic Freedom Projects of commoners become the two sides of the same darkness. When we remove the gap of time, and marry the past with the future, we see the same thing, the exact same thing. The only time humanity breaks this chain of political futility is when we fight to be free from oppression, in order to be subjects to Christ our Lord – our Kurios – the Supreme Eternal Authority from whom all Political Systems originate and to whom these systems must submit (Col. 1:16, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 19:16). By the phrase, “a people who are subjects of Christ”, we are defining a citizenship developed out of reverence for God, founded on moral uprightness and geared towards Collective Well-Being – the idea that in my pursuit of personal well-being, I will not harm you. Whenever the objective and the quest for freedom is self-rule, then that Freedom Project is already corrupted. Our quest for freedom, must be motivated by a desire to be subjects of Christ. Freedom as a definition of self-rule is an anomaly in the System of Creation (or in the Kingdom of God). Try it. Such a thing simply does not exist. It is what the fallen angel, Satan, offered mankind in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). It is the very reason we are where we are. And so when a people are engaged in a Freedom Project, they must define a set of new and better moral rules they want to subject themselves to, if they don’t, corruption becomes the inevitable outcome, or put differently, they’ll simply reinvent the conditions of their oppressor, if not worse. In other words, there is nothing as dangerous as seeking freedom without a moral foundation. A key lesson in the Book of Exodus – is that a people are delivered from a system of oppression, only to be subjected to another system, a system of moral laws based on reverence for God, moral uprightness and on the ideal of Collective Well-being. In that system, good citizenship is based on what you do or do not do to your neighbor, not on how well you take care of yourself. Statements like, “you shall not steal, kill or covet…”, imply a system of citizenship preoccupied with the well-being of the one next to you, your fellow citizen. In this order of citizenship, not only am I given personal liberty, but I am also bound by an obligation towards the wellbeing of my fellow citizens. And as we see in the Book of Exodus, when the freed slaves refuse this new order, corruption and chaos become the inevitable outcome. Oppression must therefore be defined as a denial from realizing a dream of a better human arrangement based on the imperative for moral uprightness and collective well-being. Where the fight against oppression is understood to be a quest to be the same as the oppressor, then it is already tainted with elements of corruption, only time will tell. Without realizing it, in such a “revolutionary project”, we’ve taken the privileged but corrupted condition of the oppressor, and have made it our inspiration and vision. In such a process, we are “walking in the counsel of the wicked, we are standing in the way of sinners, and are sitting in the seat of mockers” and do not realize that “better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous” (Ps. 37:16-17).  The nuance behind Paul’s instruction to the slaves, to (continue to) serve their masters, but now “as unto the Lord” (see Eph. 6:5-9 and Col. 3:22-4:1), is that in the process of being liberated by Christ, we are saved from craving the corrupted privilege of our oppressor, essentially sharing in his blood guilt (and or to go up the “ladder” or to take the only options that the corrupt system offers us, should we wish to be rich). We are empowered to “subversively”  influence the condition of the master’s life by offering our freewill service. Here we are no longer a slave to a man, but we are slaves to Christ, and have the power to influence the master’s heart by the power of our unconditional and unmerited love towards him. We break the chain of causality in that the earthly master no longer has power to shape our will, attitude and emotions. Our actions can no longer be attributed to the input factors of the earthly master. In the same way, Paul’s instructions to earthly masters (or modern day owners of Capital), to treat their slaves well and beyond the definitions of the legal code of the system of the day (whatever that looks like for our employees, house maids etc. in modern day systems) is because each time the master treats his slave well (who is essentially a fellow human), and with justice and generosity, he regains his own humanity, godliness and peace. And each time he does the contrary, he loses his own humanity, godliness and peace. So in reality, the master does not have “authority” over his slaves, rather, he is a slave unto his own greed. For this reason, those who have riches and power have truly lived the most troubled lives, and have tended to lack in the fundamentals of life like peace, family, trust etc. Nothing built out of blood guilt, oppression and injustice is sustainable and peaceful. In other words, sometimes we are oppressed, not by external forces, but by our own greed that our oppressors resemble before us. We see in them who we are internally. It is that craving to be like our oppressor, that we sometimes confuse with the idea of revolution. 

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

Durban, South Africa


Please follow the links below to access other resources relevant to the current pandemic…

  1. “I can’t breathe”: How can Church deconstruct Racism?
  2. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  3. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  4. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  5. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  6. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  7. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  8. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  9. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  10. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  11. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  12. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

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