By Tim Lilley
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
This column appears in an issue of The Message that is dated July 5 — the day after our country’s celebration of Independence Day — the day upon which the Declaration of Independence was published. It seems right to begin with that brief passage from 2 Corinthians, in which Paul reminds us that freedom is founded in the Spirit of the Lord.
So many today proclaim the opposite, which is truly a shame and cause for more than a little sadness. All of us, together, must continue to pray for our world — not just this country — and we must embrace the belief expressed in the Novena of Surrender I wrote about two weeks ago.
“Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything”(Prayer of the Novena of Surrender).
Do you see how that complements Paul’s proclamation about the Spirit of the Lord? When we surrender to the Spirit of Jesus and let Him take care of everything, we become truly free.
Of course, we’re not free to do whatever we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want. That’s not it; that doesn’t represent freedom. It represents something more relativistic and, actually, very capable of enslaving us.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom to love one another as He has loved us. Think about what that means. Christ didn’t do whatever he wanted, with whomever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He surrendered Himself to the Father, and He let the Father take care of everything.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Have you ever said some version of that prayer? I have; more than a few times. I find that I prefer the Novena of Surrender prayer, which pretty much says the same thing from a slightly different perspective. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew what awaited him. We do not. The members of the Continental Congress who drafted, passed and enacted the Declaration of Independence did not. The Novena of Surrender prayer reflects our lack of knowledge regarding what we face in life; but, as Jesus prayed in the Garden, we ask our Lord to take care of everything — which frees us of any need for worry, anxiety of fear.
If you read the Declaration of Independence and compared it to Jesus’ prayer in the Garden and the prayer of the Novena of Surrender, you will find in it elements that are very similar to those prayers:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . . .
‘We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States . . . .” (The Declaration of Independence, published July 4, 1776).
The document we celebrate every 4th of July lays out a compelling case for the decision to proclaim independence from British rule. At its most basic level, however, it simply acknowledges that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. It acknowledges that turning everything over to God provides the freedom of letting him take care of it all.
May we all strive to live — and be — that free.