Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).
Precious is the liberty to speak your mind, choose your vocation, and use your resources as you judge best. In political choices and personal decisions alike, you rightly guard and cherish that liberty.
Yet, neither unlimited options nor lack of restraints lie at the heart of freedom. Gain all wealth and power, and you will always long for whatever escapes you. Utterly dependent on your subjects and treasures, you will be least free of all.
Bob Dylan was right: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
But who? Not your stuff if you follow your heart. Your deepest motive is to love, your greatest passion to worship the Source of love.
You realize freedom best by serving the One who most wishes you joy, who wants you to creatively live your deepest truth. God made you by, of, and for love. Ultimately, not freedom from another but only freedom to love another satisfies you.
Jesus’ refrain to take up your cross and follow him has a dare’s edge, yes, but it is more an invitation to his hospitality. He invites you to let go of all the half-measures for which the world seduces you to settle. He bids you accept life abundant lived out of your deepest desire to love and be loved.
Erik Kolbell powerfully states this Beatitude’s invitation to freedom in its original context and ours:
To live in accordance…with the Beatitudes…meant precisely this: abandoning the sclerotic, demeaning security that they paid for with such profound unhappiness, and choosing instead to live lives of love for which they might have to pay with their very lives…To be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. To be true to themselves as children of God, to resist in spirit and in act every precept or edict…that in any way contradicted that righteousness. To be free. In this one gesture of accepting persecution lies all the promise and peril of life in extreme obedience to the will of God. Jesus did know this, and his mission was nothing if not to ensure that others knew it too.
To freely live and love authentically, you must know for whom you are willing to die. But absent the threat of persecution the early Christians faced, how do you cultivate that freedom? How do you exercise that willingness to die for life with God rather than live for whatever else slowly kills you? Do you punish yourself?
No. You find whatever you grip most tightly and learn to let go, or at least hold it loosely.
In his classic, Addiction and Grace, Gerald May argued that we are all addicts captive to attachments — work, sex, status, television, food, or whatever else enslaves our desire. Ascetic spiritual practices of detachment in which people voluntarily suffer the loss of these things looks like self-punishment, but they aim for freedom.
Not freedom from desire,” wrote May, “but freedom of desire… Detachment uncovers our basic desire for God and sets it free. With freedom of desire comes the capacity to love, and love is the goal of the spiritual life.
The happy paradox of all this is that whatever you let go, you get to love and enjoy all the more. Stop calling it “mine” and start calling it “gift from God,” and it no longer enslaves you. It may even set you free.
 Erik Kolbell, What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life. (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2003), p. 129.
 Gerald G. May, Addiction and Grace. (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), pp. 14-15.