Precise steps towards freedom

Jesus declared Himself as the way, the truth and the life. This is the most important information ever availed, to any person in need of freedom. People spend gigantic sums of money to establish businesses, or pursue some professional careers, aiming at attaining economic freedom. But there is more to freedom, than just economic independence.

A person can be guaranteed sufficient money, as to lack nothing in this life. But the person remains in misery, as unable to control what goes on in one’s environment. The person may realize that, although able to meet medical bills, and other physical problems, he/she cannot guarantee his/her lifespan.

This constitutes realities of life that cannot be avoided by anyone, whether from a royal family or not. Total freedom entails assurance in attaining eternal life, also granting the ability to control one’s surroundings. Money alone cannot guarantee one’s health and unforeseen physical calamities.

And then he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes (Luke 12:15-23 NIV).

The rich man assumed that freedom was about an easy lifestyle, doing nothing. He failed to appreciate that freedom is, actually, embraced in hard work. This spells a definite misunderstanding when assuming independence means avoiding responsibility. People get surprised when caught up in abject poverty, even after having attained independence.

Freedom is attainable through Jesus Christ who described Himself as the way, the truth and the life. There are three steps towards attaining total freedom, through Jesus, highlighted in the legendary parable of the prodigal son.

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” (Luke 15:14-17 NIV).

The prodigal son had been with his father, before deciding separation. He requested to be granted his inheritance, to pursue pleasures, outside his father’s purview. The liberty was granted, but disconnecting him from his origin. He did not take that as problematic, as long as holding cash, with which to be able to confront life’s challenges.

The inheritance package caused him to forget his origin. His liberty, emboldened by cash, caused him to assume unnecessary to think about his origin, thereby, forgetting his identity. As typical of such characters, the possibility of ever running out of cash never came into his mind.

The challenge with humans is that whatever the amount of wealth, accumulated in this world, perishes, just as physical lives perish. If Queen Elizabeth’s life ended; what about any ordinary person? Figuratively, the life condition of any person is not different from that of the prodigal son.

Some people die without having been granted an opportunity to reflect on their status of origin. The prodigal son could have died still enjoying the good life, without having had an opportunity to think about his origin. In this story, the prodigal son can be considered as lucky.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father” (Luke 15:17-20 NIV).

The prodigal son simply reflected on his identity and remembered his origin. Figuratively, this is the starting point toward the condition of freedom. A person discovering his identity achieves the greatest stride toward freedom.

The second step is cancelling the idea of self-respect. The prodigal son remembered having sinned against his father. He realized the need to confront his unbridled transgression against his father. In a contrite spiritual condition, he resolved to seek mercy, desiring to be treated like a servant, by his father.

“I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:18-19 NIV).

The prodigal son did not conceitedly demand mercy from his father. In other words, he could not perceive himself as deserving forgiveness for his wrongdoing. This conduct is manifested in one of the two criminals, crucified with Jesus.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43 NIV).

The other criminal portrays the spirit of the prodigal son, acknowledging his transgression against his Father. The realization of sinfulness is as important as enabling induction into the father’s house. The criminal’s contrite spirit caused Jesus to declare being with him in paradise. One cannot be in paradise without being inducted into the father’s house.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:19-21 NIV).

When the prodigal son arrived, he maintained his idea of remorsefulness to his father. However, his father did what he could not expect; slaughtering a fat calf to welcome his wayward son, ignoring his previous transgressions.

And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:21-24 NIV).

The most significant part of this parable is the father’s commitment to adorn his son. He takes the responsibility to remove his son’s shameful condition. The episode ends with a joyful father/son reunion celebration. The parable reveals three steps that can be followed to attain freedom.

The first step reflects the importance of discovering one’s identity, as God’s child. The second step is to renounce all forms of pride when submitting to God in a contrite manner. The third step is receiving grace, where God dresses the sinner, according to His Godly standard.

However, there is a brother of the prodigal son who never left his father. He did not participate in the celebration, at the return of his brother. He had remained loyal, helping his father, as opposed to the wayward son, who squandered his father’s wealth. He never sinned against his father.

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’  But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes; you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours’” (Luke 15:25-31 NIV).

In human judgmental conditions, it is easy to condemn the elder son for being jealous. Why did he not appreciate his brother’s return? He got informed of his brother’s return from one of the servants. However, information remains suspicious, unless coming from the source.

The elder brother is caught as one, not in the matrix of what had transpired. He is not aware of the contrite nature of his returning bother. The information received, surmised that his father was celebrating his brother’s waywardness. This appeared as a juxtaposed justice delivery.

This shows how essential it is to accurately transmit information. This is why Jesus specifically advised never to judge one another (Matthew 7:1-5). In this world, wrong judgments are passed because of miscommunication. The servant lacked essential details, which were with the father.

As loving and compassionate, the father understood the elder son’s concern. He did not rebuke him for feeling uncomfortable after his brother’s return. He did not have to give full details but assured him of His unfailing love. The father is a good communicator.

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:31-32 NIV).

The faithful son could not remain in bitterness, as then, understanding the feelings of his father. His brother had been dead, forgotten about, but had become alive. It was out of love that his loving father had graciously received His prodigal son from waywardness.

The former prodigal son could not be jealous after his father declared ownership of His possessions to his elder brother. He resolved to honour his elder brother without reason for reservation. In this parable, Jesus’ role is that of the elder son who never left his father.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34 NIV).

The above words were said by one in perplexity, observing an apparent neglectful behaviour of a father. Jesus did not deserve such treatment, as having not sinned against His Father. He justifiably posed a question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34 NIV).

God did not save Him from the crucifixion process. This is just like the father of the prodigal son could not reverse his resolve to forgive the wayward son, in order to appease his faithful son. It was only after the incident at the return of his wayward brother, that the entire wealth was pronounced as belonging to him. Hence, Jesus should be regarded as Lord.

The faithful son, projected in the parable, had previously not owned his father’s wealth. Congruently, immediately after resurrection, Jesus is heard pronouncing similar words as promised to the elder brother.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 NIV).

Similarly, Jesus did not own anything before going through the crucifixion experience. Hence, Jesus made the declaration after the crucifixion. The process of the cross is painful, but justifiable when considering God’s love, endures forever.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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