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During the past couple of weeks, the whole world seemed to be watching the unfolding events in Egypt. Each night on television, or each morning in the newspapers, Americans watched as the protests began gaining momentum.
As more and more people took to the streets of Cairo, many wondered if there would be violence and how what was going on there might affect the surrounding areas and even the rest of the world.
Finally, after much build-up and several attempts by those in leadership to somehow remain in power, the protests ended in celebration as Egyptian PresidentHosni Mubarak stepped down after 30 years of ruling with a strong and sometimes brutal hand.
As a result, the once-oppressed people of Egypt exulted in their new-found freedom.
Freedom. That was the word on many of the protesters lips and in the newspaper headlines.
From the impassioned dying proclamation of William Wallace as depicted in the movie, Braveheart, to our own revolution some 235 years ago, to the streets of Cairo today, the lure of freedom has ever beckoned those brave enough to seek it.
Many have responded to the events in Egypt with unbridled optimism, proclaiming boldly that they – along with similar recent events in Tunisia – herald an era of growing freedom and democracy in the Middle East. And I hope the optimists are correct.
For my part, I guess I’m a bit more cautious in my analysis. From my perspective, it’s much too soon to try to guess what the eventual results of these recent events will be.
Though I wish the best for the Egyptian people, to me it is less than certain that everything will culminate in a happy ending. For one thing, while there were most assuredly those who rose up in protest simply to gain their freedom, the evidence suggests there may have been others with less honorable motives.
But regardless of the protesters motivations, the fact remains that freedom alone is not a guarantee of a prosperous future.
As the French writer Andre Gide said, “To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.”
And therein lies the ongoing problem that has plagued mankind from the very beginning.
From Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden all the way to today, the evidence is overwhelming that freedom is not a guarantee of a positive outcome.
Though the humanist will argue that “a man, educated to do right, will,” common sense and my own personal experience tells me that this is not the case.
The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were created perfectly but still chose to disobey God. Because of their sin, all of their descendants (that’s us) have a fallen nature and are incapable of alwayschoosing to do the right thing no matter how good our intentions.
The Founding Fathers of our country understood this fallen nature, and that was the reason they designed the Constitution as a system of checks and balances. They realized that if power were consolidated under one person (as in the King of England at that time, or the deposed President of Egypt today), the capacity for bad choices would go unchecked, with potentially disastrous results.
They understood that freedom, without a corresponding anchor of morality and responsibility, could lead to even greater tyranny.
And so it is with cautious optimism that I view the recent events in Egypt.
Freedom from human oppression is a wonderful, God-given desire and I wish it for everyone, not just in Egypt, but around the globe. But, understanding the fallen nature of man, I realize that – on this side of heaven at least – lasting freedom will be hard to come by for many.
The Bible affirms the human desire for freedom. But it also asserts that political freedom – as wonderful as it is – is not the primary freedom that man should seek. Jesus said that he came to bring a different kind of freedom: freedom from sin and from the physical and spiritual death it brings. This is what the Bible calls the “good news”, and certainly that is an understatement!
This, in fact, is great news indeed: freedom – true and lasting freedom – is available to everyone! It doesn’t require guns or tanks or a political revolt, just a humble acknowledgment of our need to be freed from chains of our own making, and our willingness to pledge allegiance to a heavenly, not earthly, King.
I pray that all who read these words will come to know this true freedom that is found only in Jesus.
Back to today’s front-page news, I pray also that the people of Egypt will take advantage of their newly gained freedom, and implement changes that will bring democracy to their land.
Otherwise, I fear that their freedom will be temporary, and the words of Eric Hoffer will be proven, that “we feel free when we escape – even if it be but from the frying pan into the fire.”
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.