Via Positiva: A Time To Embrace — Embrace Freedom

By: JUBILEE! Minister Candace Chellew-Hodge

Addiction is “a state of compulsion, obsession, or preoccupation that enslaves a person’s will and desire. Addiction sidetracks and eclipses the energy of our deepest, truest desire for love and goodness.” — Gerald May, Addiction and Grace

In our Jesus story (Matthew 5:38-42), we find our guy pointing out some very serious addictions that the people of his day suffered from. They were addicted to the law, namely the Jewish laws that demand retribution — laws that demand sacrifice and are devoid of mercy.

Even today, we have an addiction to retribution. We still like the idea of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. That’s the basis of laws such as the death penalty. You take a life, you pay for it with your own.

Over these past few weeks, some of us have been shocked to see people with a whole lot of pain, stand up and publicly forgive the person who inflicted that pain. Nadine Collier lost her mother, Ethel Vance, in the shootings at Emanuel AME in Charleston. In the courtroom, she told the young shooter, “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people, but I forgive you.”

This kind of forgiveness is not an acceptance of what happened, or ignoring the offense. It’s freedom.

In that moment, Collier was not addicted to her hatred, her anger or her grief. If she had been, she would have not been able to make a choice for love and forgiveness.

If many of us are unable to make the choice for love in a long grocery store line, how will we ever claim the freedom we need to forgive and love someone who really may do us wrong down the road?

Our penchant for anger, revenge, and hatred are addictions, Jesus says. They are shackles that keep us from really being free. The families of these Charleston victims show us the real meaning of what Jesus is teaching here about turning the other cheek, giving over our last piece of clothing or going that extra mile. This, Jubilants, is what freedom looks like.

Theologian Eric Butterworth writes that “Jesus knew that when you do what is required of you and no more, you are a slave … but if you want routine living to become abundant living, you must give more.”

This is what we do when we overcome ego and step into that higher divine consciousness. This is where the families of those who died in Charleston are living from — a higher consciousness that understands that anger, revenge and an eye-for-an-eye mentality not only leaves us all blind — it leaves us all in bondage.

When we are bound by our addictions, we are not free to love, we are not free to forgive, we are not free to do more and give more and be more in this world.

As Gerald May writes: “St. Augustine once said that God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them. If our hands are full, they are full of the things to which we are addicted … our addictions fill up the spaces within us, spaces where grace might flow.”

Addictions are the things that bind us, that get a hold of us and fill up our hands with petty desires and concerns. It’s unrealistic to think we can just let go of our addictions. Anyone in a 12-step program can tell you that going cold turkey rarely works.

But, what May suggests is this — “we can choose to relax our hands a little bit or to keep clenching them ever more tightly.”  It’s a small step, but one that points us in the direction of true freedom.

Breathe deeply.

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