Imagine being fast asleep after your parents tucked you in, gave you a kiss, and told you to sleep tight. You feel safe.
Then imagine being ripped from sleep by an excruciatingly loud blast, tearing into your home, destroying your safe haven. Imagine running from your room to find your house ripped apart by a bomb.
That's where Alveda King found herself at age 12 in 1963. Because of her family's fight for civil rights, she quickly learned the power of keeping her eyes on freedom rather than succumbing to fear. Her uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and her father, Rev. A. D. King—leaders of the U. S. civil rights movement—opened her world to the power, importance, and cost of freedom.
Dr. Alveda King knows the pain of bondage. With ancestry in American slavery, she lived through Jim Crow, segregation, and racial hatred.
But she also understands bondage from poor decisions. At a young age, she walked away from God, leading her to two abortions, three divorces, and a lot of anger.
Not until many years later did she finally understand that true freedom means living life in light of Christ's death and resurrection.
Now a leader in her own right, Dr. King is a mother and grandmother, a civil rights activist, pastoral associate and director of African-American Outreach with Priests for Life, and founder of King for America. She's written several books, including Life at All Costs.
Here's what she says about understanding God's gift of freedom.
You have quite a history of working for freedom.
ALVEDA: The civil rights movement led by my uncle Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was birthed from the Bible, which proclaims liberty for captives and freedom from poverty and bondage. So it would seem natural for me to understand freedom. But I fell away at a young age and got into all sorts of trouble.
When I discovered who Jesus really is and embraced him, then I understood the power of freedom—not only physically, but spiritually.
The biblical perspective on freedom allows us to understand that liberty is God's gift to human beings and is not defined nor limited by skin color or stages of human development. Righteousness and justice, companions of liberty and freedom, are God's vehicles for administering order and fairness to all of his people.
Why do we misunderstand God's idea of freedom?
We misunderstand the liberties that come from the Holy Spirit, the shed blood of Christ, and the mercy and grace of our Father, because we don't spend time getting to really know God, where liberty comes from.
God is love, and so the greatest liberator is love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 and throughout the Bible. So the only way to truly experience freedom is to love God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves.
It seems so simple.
It does. But we often manipulate that freedom.
In what way?
God says that in the Spirit there's no male or female, no slave or free, only Christ all in all.
For us freedom means being liberated from the bondage of human oppressors. But to God liberty means being set free from the bondage of the devil and being free to worship, love, know, and obey him.
Throughout history people were in bondage and only God could set them free. Of course God uses people, such as Moses. He certainly used my uncle and father. And today I fight for the freedom of the unborn and for the sick and elderly.
Liberty from God's perspective is for everyone. God sees us all the same: as one human race in need of a Savior, his Son Jesus Christ. Although freedom in the physical sense is important, freedom in the spiritual sense is even more important. As Scripture says, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
How can women break free from fear and move forward in God's calling?
When God told Gideon to tear down the altars the people had built to Baal, Gideon was so afraid that he tore them down at night when the people couldn't see him doing it.
Of course the next day the people figured out it was Gideon and confronted him. He'd obeyed the Lord in fear, and the next day he still had to face it. His father came to his rescue by saying, "Let Baal contend against himself. The altars are broken down and if Baal is so strong, let Baal deal with it."
That's the same way we need to deal with fear. If you have an altar of fear that's keeping you bound, stand before both altars—God and your fear—and see whose God is really God. Our God is able to deliver. We have to choose who we will follow.
What role does repentance play in freedom?
There can be no freedom without repentance and redemption.
I have to flee from sin, fall on my knees, and cry out to God. When you're in trouble or feel like you're about to make the wrong decision, run to God. James tells us to "draw near to God." God will definitely draw near to us.
There's nothing that compares to the freedom of knowing you've run to God and he's on your side. But that doesn't happen without repentance.
That redemption leads to compassion as well, I assume?
My pastor recently said, "When I first got saved, I thought the way I was saved was the only way you could be saved. So if I had to tie people down and pour it down their throats, I was willing to do that."
We chuckled about that, because the Lord touches our lives in so many different ways. We came to Christ through his mercy and grace, so that's how we also need to joyfully share our experiences and allow the Holy Spirit to communicate with each of God's children according to their own design.
Living in God's freedom helps me understand that I'm still on the way to becoming who I am, and as long as I'm breathing I'll be on that path. Not judging others but loving them—because I've experienced both sides. I have to remind myself to let God and his Word judge and convict.
With freedom comes responsibility, yes?
Right. I have to live 1 Corinthians 13: "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love."
As a Christian I have a responsibility not to be self-righteous or judgmental, pretending that I'm perfect and carrying around the attitude, Why can't you do things like me? No. Jesus Christ has done all of this for us under the power of the Holy Spirit by God's mercy and love. Freedom comes in the humility of understanding who God is and who we are in him—and who we are without him. Whether the rain is falling or the sun is shining, it all comes from the Lord, who is able and truly does deliver us all the time.