I recently discovered that it was Mikhail Gorbachev’s 85th birthday. To Millenials his name may mean nothing, but to those of us who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and Ronald Reagan’s famous declaration: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”, this man looms big in our memories. He looks older these days, and a bit paunchy, but the birthmark on his forehead gives him away. He certainly is someone who helped change the world – a world I never thought would change in my lifetime. Compared to Vladimir Putin, he is almost saintly. Actually, he is hailed by many in Russia as a liberator, hero, and statesman. To others, he could be an object of scorn and hatred for forcing Russia into a “brave new world”.
I came across this quote from a newspaper editor who said: “Mikhail S. Gorbachev – some love him for bringing freedom, and others loathe him for bringing freedom.” Of course, freedom is an interesting concept. If you are a libertarian, the more freedom the better. If you are Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un of North Korea or Assad of Syria, freedom is subversive and dangerous.
In the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” prisoners were comfortable behind bars, with decisions being made for them. Leaving the confines of the penitentiary was frightening. Soren Kierkegaard once spoke of the dizziness of freedom. Freedom can make you dizzy when you leave college and you don’t know what to do next. Freedom is always a little disconcerting.
For Christians freedom is defined in two ways. Jesus frees us from sin, and through grace we are free to serve. Are we using our freedom to serve gracefully, with love, concern, and compassion for others? Are we simply turning our freedom into another way in which we please our own egos?