By now your sunburn should have cooled off and your ears stopped ringing from the fireworks, not to mention all of the great BBQ from the big day! We missed the Greenfield celebration because of scheduling problems and no air in the car—a 45-minute drive in 98-degree weather just didn’t sound like fun! I’m sure there was a great time had by all!
Independence and freedom! What a gift we have received from the Founding Fathers. Anyone can become what they choose to be, but there is a catch: You have to want it and work for it. It is the difference between being free and getting things free. The Founding Fathers gave us the opportunity to achieve, to grow, to learn, but not the ability to get anything we want without commitment to get it.
I am reminded of a bumper sticker I have seen around lately: “Freedom Is Not free.” This phrase is engraved into one wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. Like many other singers and groups, if you listen to Toby Keith’s song, American Soldier, you will hear his agreement when he sings, “Freedom don’t come free.” To finish the thought, it was gained by those who fought for our freedoms. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence put their lives, families, and possessions in danger when they affixed their names to that document. Although an e-mail that makes its rounds greatly exaggerates the outcome of their actions, the truth is that their lives would forever be changed because of their beliefs and their choice. Their decision set in motion a system that would forever change history. From that time until this, preserving the freedom of our country has required courage, commitment, and sacrifice.
Our freedoms should be celebrated not only on the Fourth, but throughout the year as we honor those who have made the sacrifice and those who continue to do so. But the commitment to freedom doesn’t belong only to young men and women and to career soldiers and politicians. Freedom isn’t free, and each of us must make a commitment to freedom, a commitment to courage in our own lives, being involved in the political system and in society to preserve this hard-fought freedom for all citizens of our country.
My friends, too often we confuse the concept of our being free with everything else being free. Too often we take for granted what was done for us, and because of that, we become like spoiled children, expecting everything to be easy and abundant. Anyone who gardens knows that just owning the property isn’t quite enough to bring in a harvest. It takes work, investment, and cultivation. Likewise, although we, as citizens of the U.S., possess freedom as our inheritance, it takes the same amount of diligence and commitment to keep this country free.
Freedom. It has a price, for some a very high price. Yet even the cost paid for our freedom in this country is just a shadow compared to the greatest price paid, that paid by Jesus Christ for our sin. Perhaps that was part of the inspiration for our Founding Fathers, as they were men of faith. In any case, several thousand years ago, one man, whose only crime was speaking truth and showing love, hung on a cross to set free all humanity, having once been enslaved to sin. Jesus bridged the gulf between humanity and its Creator. So even spiritual freedom is not free. It was paid for with blood and pain, even as it is in the earthly realm.
But even as we are oftentimes complacent with our freedoms in America, too often we are complacent about the spiritual freedom Jesus Christ has provided for us. Consider this conversation between Jesus and some believing Jews:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did” (John 8:31-39).
What did Abraham do? He believed in God. He trusted in God. He followed God. He held to every word that God has spoken to him. Our freedom comes to us at a price that was paid by Christ, but to live in freedom, ah, that is yet another subject. It isn’t enough to be set free. We need to live in that freedom, to embrace that freedom, and we do that by believing God and exercising what we have received.
The truth of living in freedom is that we are still serving something. Our country only retains its freedom because people fight for it, whether on the battlefield or in the political forum. And as believers, we can only appreciate our freedom from sin if we choose to stop serving the world and those things that cause us to sin. Paul stated, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22,23).
To quote the old Bob Dylan song, “You’ve got to serve somebody.” Either we will serve sin, which includes serving our own selfish wants and desires, or we will serve God by hearing, knowing, and embodying the Word of God in our lives. I knew a woman who was frustrated in life. She had dreams and hopes but didn’t think she could ever amount to anything. There was always another reason she couldn’t achieve. Didn’t have an education. Didn’t have money. Didn’t this and didn’t that. Because she was unaware of what was available to her, she spent years in frustration, until one day she found out that she was eligible for educational assistance. She applied for that assistance, went to school, and became the nurse she always wanted to be. It just took some knowledge and a step out.
When we sit in frustration, bound up by our habits, thoughts, and fears, we are like that woman, unaware that in Christ our freedom has already been purchased. But it doesn’t come easy. It takes faith, commitment, and courage to step out. When we do, however, we find the deliverance that had been there all along.
As you celebrated the freedom of the United States of America, so celebrate the freedom Christ has purchased for you. And if you don’t know that freedom, if you are bound up in the past and in everything that oppresses you, I invite you today to invite Christ into your life. Confess your sins and receive forgiveness. Then go to church and learn about the love that sets you free.
Mary Kay Glunt
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church