I have spent a good deal of time in Egypt, that most ancient of all countries, and I like the Egyptian people a lot. And if you have been paying attention, we have just had an important moment in history this week, as through moral force, not violence, the Egyptian people have overthrown a much loathed dictator with cries of freedom and democracy. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, there is something in the soul of a human being that cries out for freedom. And we have heard that cry repeatedly since January 25th all over Egypt, and especially in Tahrir Square near the famous Cairo Museum of Egyptology. Tahrir, means Liberation, and what better place to cause a peaceful liberation of Egypt than in that place. As Egypt turns to its prayers while I write this, I would urge every Christian in America to pray that the Egyptian revolution, far more peaceful than our own, would lead to true freedom and democracy for all Egyptians— Coptic Christians, Moslems and secular Egyptians too. It will serve the whole world well, if that is what emerges in Egypt.
It’s one of the most intoxicating things that has ever existed— freedom. And there are many dimensions to it— political freedom, religious freedom, financial freedom, freedom of expression, we could go on and on. As the old song says ‘all the world over it’s easy to see. People everywhere just gotta be free.’ Freedom is often confused with a particular political system, namely democracy. But democracies don’t necessarily set everyone free, as the first democracy in ancient Greece is a testimony to. If financial freedom or freedom from debt is essential to freedom, there aren’t many free people in the world. And it is a poor and truncated form of freedom when one is only prepared to talk about ‘freedom from’ or ‘freedom to’ though freedom from oppression and tyranny is essential.
One needs to also ask what’s freedom for? Is it something essential to being human? And what about freedom from sin? Is that something essential to being human, or do we define being human as being free to sin? Well, strangely enough many people do define that as freedom—it’s called sexual freedom or freedom from the truth, and a host of other things. And it is fool’s gold, not real freedom.
Today perhaps is not the time to reflect philosophically on the nature and meaning of freedom, but this much I would want to say to all my Egyptian friends— God has created all human beings for freedom, so they may freely relate to their God and one another in love. For love is something that can only be freely given, and freely received. Just as you can’t have love without trust, so also you can’t have love without freedom. It is the presupposition of most everything else that is good, and true and beautiful. Today I say to my Egyptian friends, not merely we are watching and celebrating with you, but we are praying. Praying for the best possible outcome— a truly free Egypt. As a Christian I would just add, “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!”