It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
This weekend I’m winding down the “Italy Adventure” series. Maybe one or two more posts after today. For me, retelling the journey has been a lot of fun; and I trust I have communicated the essential “fabulosity” of Italy for all of you.
Today we’ll be visiting the Republic of San Marino. Founded on September 3, 301, the tiny nation – 24-square-miles – has continuously maintained its independence and its neutrality. Even Napoleon Bonaparte respected the republic’s right to exist. Then, in 1871, after San Marino provided refuge for supporters of Italian unification, Garibaldi exempted the state from integration.
San Marino has by definition stood for independence and for political neutrality; the state represents a more than eighteen-hundred year commitment to principles that – to date – govern only a minority of the Peoples of this world.
Abraham Lincoln admired San Marino, and the republic granted the 16th U.S. President honorary citizenship. “A government founded on republican principles,” Lincoln wrote, “is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring.” He added that San Marino proved his point.
Rebekah and I, along with Andrew and Alicia, drove into the republic, and as far up Monte Titano as we could before parking and walking to the top of the mountain/fortress (2,425 feet). The views are spectacular; we could see the Apennines to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east.
Monte Titano is a great location for panoramic photographs and – more importantly – panoramic views over a long lunch. The restaurant may have catered to the tourist market, but there’s no getting around the fact that “tourists” is exactly who we were that day, including Andrew and Alicia, and we enjoyed ourselves completely.
FREEDOM: Reading about San Marino, and then physically being there, has encouraged me think about the whole idea of freedom, and what part the ideal plays in our day-to-day lives. And I realized that there is a critically important relationship between faith and freedom.
The apostle Paul points out (Galatians 5:1) that setting people free is a purposeful act on the part of Jesus – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” We have been set free for more than just ourselves; we have been set free on behalf of the ideal of freedom. In other words, along with the freedom we are privileged to enjoy comes the imperative to invite others into this good story.
Yet religion is also at the heart of so much that works against freedom. Fact is, the idea of freedom is a deep threat to those who depend on guilt, intimidation, fear, manipulation, and control to advance their political – and social – agendas.
Listen to these words from Romans 12; they surfaced in my men’s Bible study discussion earlier this morning:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! – Romans 12:9-16
THE GIFT: Christ has given me complete freedom. Christ has also given it to you, irrespective of your decision to claim it – or not. This need that some have to “know it all” is presented as a non-example of gospel, a counterpoint to communicating the Jesus message of love. Judgment, condemnation, exclusivity, and finger-pointing serve to illustrate how far from God’s truth so many religions, and religious people have moved.
I know there’s a lot of “free association” in this line of thought, flowing from one simple starting point in San Marino; but if travel doesn’t cause us to think, then have we really been anywhere?