Archive for June, 2012


Have to? or Want to?

ImageEarlier this week I was talking with someone who was proudly extolling the virtues of his retirement lifestyle. While still finding plenty to keep himself busy with, he said that for him, being retired meant that there was a whole lot less “have to” in his daily schedule and a whole lot more “want to.” I thought immediately of the movie Parenthood with Steve Martin and one of that movie’s most memorable lines. Right in the middle of a frantic period of running from one obligation to another and madly chasing his own tail, Martin throws his hands up in exasperation and shouts, “HAVE TO, HAVE TO HAVE TO… MY WHOLE LIFE IS ‘HAVE TO’!”

Have you ever felt like that? And by “like that” I mean have you ever felt trapped… hemmed in by duties and obligations that you really don’t remember choosing and yet which you feel powerfully compelled to fulfill, regardless of what it costs you personally?

I know the feeling well because it is one I have experienced more than once in my life. I will confess to you that here today on my weekly Friday “day off” I have a long list of “have to’s” staring me in the face… including putting the finishing touches on Sunday’s sermon.

But here is where my “musings” have led me today as we consider this topic: was this ever the way Jesus experienced life? Can you bring to mind any reasonable scenario in which we might have overheard Jesus say, “Hey I’d really like to do that with you, but I’ve got this huge stack of chores to take care of, so I’m going to have to take a rain check.” Of course historical records do not show us that Jesus ever married, so his list of “have to’s” was likely considerably shorter than some of ours. (just kidding, sweetie!)

I guess I am going this direction because I see that we are moving closer and closer to our annual “Independence Day” celebration and our annual consideration of the nature of freedom. Is freedom a political system found in some places but not in others? Is freedom the ability to just do what you want to do whenever you want to do it? Or is it perhaps something more deeply rooted… a “state of the soul” if you will… that exists independently of the circumstances of our life?

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery!” (Gal. 5:1, NRSV). We also read this in John’s gospel… in the 32nd verse of chapter 8: “… and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free,” and then a little further down in verse 36, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36, NRSV).

In his life, I am sure there were many, many things Jesus “had to” do. He “had to” restore the sight of the blind man. He “had to” go and raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. He “had to” feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. And he “had to” turn his face toward Jerusalem and walk decisively toward his destiny of arrest, torture, and death by crucifixion. A key difference between Jesus and me (one of millions) is that in carrying out his “have to’s,” Jesus acts with 100% freedom. He freely chooses each step of his life’s journey. He doesn’t hide behind excuses. He doesn’t blame someone else for the state of his life. He doesn’t waste a single breath regretting the outcome of his decisions. In his heart, in his mind, in his soul, he is FREE.

“It is to freedom you are called, my brothers and sisters. It is to freedom.” (Gal. 5:13).

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