THE PATH TO Freedom IS TRUTH

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Every morning starting at 3:00 am, buses stuffed with passengers start chugging past my house carrying people to work. Looking out my bedroom window at dawn, I see the red tail lights in a continuous stream twinkling towards Pretoria. In the evening, the pattern repeats itself  – this time white head lights reflect through my window.

I drive this same road two or three times a week. Sometimes there is an accident or a broken down bus that blocks the flow of traffic. When that happens, taxis and buses start creating their own lanes. The road is narrow and the shoulder is gravel, but still that narrow strip becomes an extra two lanes filled with rude taxi drivers and constipated buses. Then a lane even develops to the outside, running against the oncoming flow of traffic. It is a free-for-all with every bus and taxi driver fighting for themselves. Private cars like mine are left to withdraw from the turmoil out of self-protection. Because I always stay in the legal lane, the makeshift lanes that emerge on both sides of me converge and hem me in to the point of paralysis.

The traffic snarl got me thinking about our world today; never-ending-wars, an ever widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, an imbalance in our global health care system (high-lighted by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa), and environmental issues around climate change. The list goes on. The conflict comes when each of us insists our particular “path” is right and every other “path” is wrong. (Example: the taxi driver model)

I’ve spent the last ten years living in a culture not my own. I actually live in a country with many cultures and thus many worldviews. I live in South Africa, a country still divided along erroneous lines regarding skin color. Because of my experiences I have been confronted with my own worldview many times. It has caused me to ask myself, “What is my worldview?” I’ve tried over the years to submit myself to a Christian worldview, but I sometimes find myself asking, “what does that mean?”

I believe Jesus actually blew apart the idea that everyone should get into a certain cultural box in order to be his follower. A Samaritan woman (Samaritan’s were considered unclean by Jews in Jesus’ day, and being a woman made her descend even further down the social ladder), asked Jesus: “Tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place to worship while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim?” Jesus answered her with this surprising “out-of-the box” answer. “The time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem” (John 4).

What Jesus said was earth-shaking for both Jews and Samaritans. It ran counter to everything a religious person believed. Jesus went on and told her, “Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. This water becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within – giving eternal life”. What matters is not the outer location or the trappings of worship but the inner spring from where it comes. When your worship comes with love and integrity, it will bubble-up from within you – organically, beautifully, eternal and life-giving. Jesus calls us not to religion but to freedom and the path to freedom is truth. Truth is not found in a worldview, a belief system a philosophy or a path. Jesus said he was the truth. Experiencing his life within us is experiencing the freedom that his truth promises to bring.

It would be more honest to say that the truth Jesus calls us to is a Kingdom. The message of the Kingdom according to Jesus was; the least shall be the greatest, the blind will see and those who see will be blind, love your enemies, turn the other cheek, give up your shirt, walk the extra mile, do to others as you would want them to do to you, sell all you have and give to the poor, lend to anyone who asks of you, forgive your debtors. Some might complain, “If we adopted this Kingdom worldview, we would be overrun by our enemies. We would lose everything we own. We would become weak. We would be taken advantage. We could possibly even be killed.” Isn’t that what happened to Jesus? Isn’t this what made the message of Jesus so controversial?

Sometimes we make the Christian worldview sound like simple ascent to certain propositions. For example, I believe in the Holy Trinity, but then we turn around and run over our neighbor with hurtful words. This stands in contrast to the Kingdom worldview as I’ve heard Jesus teach it – which promotes courage over injustice, empathetic love,  and laying down our own lives for another. Simply put, love.

The Kingdom Jesus introduced,  welcomes all to a new way of living life, with “love thy neighbor”, as it’s central mantra. This is not mental reasoning – this is emotive, sincere and truthful love that treats everyone the way I would want to be treated. The Kingdom Jesus inaugurated says, “Trade in your worldview of envy, jealousy, and hatred, no matter what the cultural trappings, and explode it! Blow it up! Look beyond the world of man made belief systems. Look inside yourself, because the Kingdom of God is within you. There you will find the truth of Jesus waiting to be born, bringing life into our dead world.

My post was going to end here. But then something happened. I started thinking about why there is a traffic snarl on my little road from Pretoria to this rural village. Back in the sixties and seventies, this area was carved out as a homeland under the former apartheid regime. Thousands of people were placed in this area and were only allowed to go into Pretoria for work. It was required of them to carry a pass, and that pass only allowed them to travel on certain roads, to and from their work place, during certain times. If they went off their normal route, or lingered past a certain time, they were arrested and sent to jail.

Our village, a former apartheid homeland, now is heavily populated, and the route to Pretoria, the only source of economic life, is only accessible by this narrow two lane artery built decades ago. So thousands of people are forced to take public transportation everyday, a one hour trip one way, just to work. The cost of public transportation consumes 50% or more of their income. Therefore, many people who work in Pretoria choose to stay in the city and only come home on weekends or maybe even once a month. It is the friday evening, month end traffic, that creates a traffic snarl that is nightmarish.

So who is the enemy here –– the rude taxi driver who is only trying to get his clients home –– clients who have worked as domestic workers all week, cleaning the homes of rich people, for such a small sum of money they can’t even afford transportation. Mothers and fathers, who only want to get home to see their children that they haven’t seen all week, or maybe even for a month? Or is the enemy the systemic system of injustice that hasn’t improved a road in over forty years, or the economic system that doesn’t allow for a living wage, or the archaic political system that placed thousands of people in the middle of the veld years ago so they couldn’t be seen by the rich elite of Pretoria?

Maybe the taxi drivers are rude. Maybe we could all learn to be a little more patient with each other. But then again, maybe there is a system that needs to be challenged. A system that we are mostly blind to.  A system that pervades our world and blinds us to it’s reality. A system that Jesus asked us to rise up against. A system that Jesus rose up against when he turned over the tables of the money changers. Maybe there is a reason our enemies are our enemies. Maybe there is more to the story then we care to discover. Maybe we are even complicit at times in the system. I’m not trying to put guilt on anyone for being alive on planet earth, just giving some food for thought. Maybe we need to see the world differently, and ask Jesus to open our eyes.

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