February 2009 - Vol. 27

Allegory on Seeking and Striving by Michael O'Brien

Called to Freedom

How can young people discover true freedom and happiness?

by Miguel Vargas

What does the Lord want from us young people in the Sword of the Spirit? I believe that  the Lord wants us to be free so that we can live as his sons and daughters and love and serve others selflessly. There is a passage from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians which has been a guiding truth for me and “light for my path” this past year. 

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
I think that this passage is a very important truth for us today, especially when the concept of freedom is so easily misunderstood and distorted in our society. 

In my evangelistic and pastoral work with teenagers I have seen up close how the world presents a false picture of freedom. Freedom is so often presented as the ability to do whatever one pleases, whenever, however, and with whomever one chooses. Freedom is seen as the ability to use drugs, to have sex, to spend all your money on all kinds of stuff  just to have fun for a while. “Freedom” is being able to say whatever I want to say about someone else, even if it might destroy their reputation or allow me to get their position at work. “Freedom” is saying whatever I want to say about myself, whether true or not, in order to win the acceptance of my classmates or peers. “Freedom” is the ability to party and drink with whomever I want, to eat whenever and whatever I want or to even stop eating for days at a stretch to make myself look more attractive. In short, “freedom” is having no prohibitions about anything you want to possess or to do.

Where true freedom can be found
In the midst of this permissive culture, the Lord reminds us that true freedom is found elsewhere. Christ has set us free and has called us to live in his freedom. As Christians we have been delivered from bondage to sin and to the lies about our true identity as sons and daughters of God our Father. Jesus Christ has won great victory for us through his death and resurrection. He has made us free from the power of evil and from the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) which wage war against the Spirit (Galatians 5:17). Through the gift of the Holy Spirit who is at work in us, we are now free in Christ to live a different kind of life – a life ruled by his love and truth. 

Paul the Apostle reminds us that although we are called to live in the freedom won by  Christ, we must not fall into the trap of using this freedom selfishly to please ourselves or to manipulate others in order to get our own way. If we try to satisfy whatever our flesh – our sinful desires – may ask of us, we have given our freedom and become slaves once again. A teenage guy who uses drugs is actually not free. He thinks he has to use drugs in order to feel good. And then he has to get money in order to have drugs, and he very likely will end up stealing in the process. He has lost his freedom and has surrendered to the slavery of substance abuse. 

A girl who is willing to do everything she must just to be attractive is not free either. If she has a compulsive desire to stop eating – if she has to throw up whatever food she tastes – if she has to live in front of a mirror and can only buy what the glamour magazines tell her to buy, then she has stopped being free. 

The same happens with teenage partners who are having regular (or occasional) sex. They can never be really comfortable with themselves, fearing they are not satisfying their partner enough, being anxious about birth control and not getting pregnant, and not being discovered by their parents. They have given up freedom. 

Our modern secular culture promotes “freedom” – the freedom to do as we please, but the result is too often just the opposite, slavery. Scripture calls this slavery sin. But we are called to freedom – the freedom which Jesus Christ has won for us.

I think the Lord is giving this freedom to his young men and women around the world. In the past years, I could see this very closely in the life of a good friend of mine in the youth group of my community. In high school, he was buying drugs and consuming alcohol just to be accepted by his classmates. Even when his parents were always praying for him, he was slowly giving up his freedom just to be popular in his school. But in a retreat we had, my friend was strongly touched by the Lord while some of us prayed for him. He then decided not only to stop using drugs, but also to follow and love the Lord. Since that time, my friend has grown in faith and maturity. He has grown in leading young people to the Lord in our university Christian outreach and he is now being used by the Lord as a tool for the salvation of many people. He was a slave who discovered freedom in Christ and has now given witness of the Lord’s love for his children.

Bringing others into the true freedom of Christ
Young people today need the witness of other young men and women who have discovered genuine freedom – freedom from sinful habits, harmful desires, and addictions, and freedom to live in peace, joy, and wholesome relationships – freedom from the fear of being rejected by their peers, free from craving harmful substances in order to feel good, free from eating disorders and overspending, hoping the latest fashions and fads will make them look good – and freedom from lies, from having to please other people, and being worried about what they wear or possess just to be popular.

This is the call for young people in the Sword of the Spirit: the call to freedom in Christ. Let us rise up and break the chains that bind us. Let us leave the false freedom behind and receive the true freedom that Jesus Christ offers, the freedom of knowing that we do not need to please others. All we need is to love Christ and to let Christ love us. If we know the love of Christ, then we will be free to love others unselfishly.

We are called to freedom, and we are called to bring others into the true freedom of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that the love of our Lord will strengthen us to serve one another and to give witness to our world that we can be truly free so that many will come to know the Lord our God.
Miguel Vargas is an underway member of the Tree of Life Community in San Jose, Costa Rica. He has been actively involved in youth ministry and is currently an affiliate of the Servants of the Word. He majored in classical philology and graduated from the University of Costa Rica in December 2008.

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