February is Valentine's Month, Heart Month, Black History Month…
• Once you know [the power of freedom]…"This is freedom. this is a weapon greater than any force you can name. Once you know this, and know it with all your being, you will move and act with a determination and power that the federal government cannot ignore, that the school boards cannot overlook, and that the housing authority cannot dismiss." Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, 1966
freedom / obedience
God gifted Israel with the ten Words or Commandments of the Sinai Covenant after they'd been liberated from slavery, been freed from production quotas. Out of imperial Egypt, into the exodus desert, on their way but not yet at the promised land, they'd learn to keep and maintain that freedom by keeping and obeying the commandments. Slavery to empire no long would be their frame of reference; instead they would reverence God by serving the neighbor.
As I've mentioned not a few times on this blogsite and countless times in the adult Sunday School class I facilitate, we discover the neighbor at the heart of the Torah, we meet our neighbor when Jesus of Nazareth summarizes the ten commandments into two: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. In Luke's gospel Jesus then tells the lawyer "thou shalt live" if he follows the commandments. God gifted us with commandments (ordinances, precepts, statutes, law, torah) so life might harmonize with Martin Buber's definition of love as responsibility of an I for a thou.
masks / freedom
Early in the COVID-19 mask-wearing mandate people started to protest. Almost a year into masks, people haven't stopped complaining, with some refusing to mask up because they insist masks take away their personal freedom. As the commandments (the law!) and the prophets (grace!) reveal, life's not about a supposedly autonomous "me" individual because no one lives by or for themselves. Polite suggestions or municipal demands to mask don't remove anyone's freedom; freedom always has limits and boundaries because no one can be that autonomous "law unto themselves." Life is about me, a person connected to the other – to my neighbor whose neighbor I become – in love that regards their greater good as my privilege and obligation, that perceives the neighbor's good as my own.
Once you know freedom, you will know love in action. Justice, determination, power – and responsibility – come alive when we love God, neighbor, and self.