What is freedom?
FREEDOM…how do you define it? How would you explain it to someone who has never known a day of it in their lives? How would you describe it to a resident of Afghanistan or Palestine…to those struggling with racial or societal hatred and bigotry in Africa or SE Asia…or the United States?
Freedom can be something as simple as not having to cook dinner after a hectic day at work. It could mean a day without a laundry list of “To Do” items that all HAVE to be done today. The very young would say “summer vacation” is freedom, while the soldier would define it as a day when he or she doesn’t have to fear what’s behind that closed door ahead. For today’s hospital worker, it means no new Covid cases or gunshot wounds in the ER. For the police officer, it means a shift without gunfire or violence.
As we celebrate the birth of this great nation that we call home, we are reminded that it was founded on the principles of freedom. Most of us learned early on in our history lessons that the Pilgrims left England in search of freedom from religious persecution.
We know that throughout our history there have been those who were denied some of the basic freedoms promised by the Declaration of Independence—“the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. And so long as there are people with differing opinions, there will be those who feel they have the “right to be IN CHARGE”… to be “the boss”.
Our prayer today—“GIVE US THIS DAY…FREEDOM”—is always going to be a part of our societal landscape for one group or another. How important then to discover the truth of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians from this morning’s Scripture—”It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Jesus talked about freedom
The Jews had a long history of being enslaved by one nation after another. Egypt treated them as sub-human. Girls born to Hebrew mothers were often confiscated to serve in the Pharaoh’s household, while males were sent to the garrisons to work as lackeys to the soldiers…or worse yet, were killed right after birth to keep them from “propagating the race and overthrowing the kingdom”. The Babylonians also captured and enslaved the Hebrews as did other lesser-known nations. For the Jews, “slavery” is a big part of their heritage—their history.
But when Jesus started to preach about freedom, the Jews who followed Him put up a fuss. They were so far removed from “the old days” that they could not even begin to fathom being enslaved. They had heard the stories passed down through the generations about Egypt and their peoples struggle there. But they had no basic understanding of what that “slavery” was like. They protested—we are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slave of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?
They did not understand that there can be a mental or emotional slavery that is far worse than having your physical liberties taken away. There is the slavery of fear, of unforgiveness, of ignorance, of hatred, the slavery of self-condemnation.
We all want freedom
Each and every one of us—even as “FREE” citizens of these United States—have known our own versions of this kind of slavery. We have wilted under the attacks of those who considered us to be “less than” they—people who called us “dumb”…who ridiculed us as “clumsy”…who laughed at our glasses, our stuttering speech, our inability to make friends or to make sense of the world.
We have known the fear of failure…the struggle to be accepted for who we are. We hear Jesus’ promise to His Jewish followers—IF THE SON SETS YOU FREE, YOU WILL BE FREE INDEED (John 8:36) .and we long for it to be true in our lives. In a society often dominated by superstars, sports legends, “big wigs” and tycoons, we want to know that our contributions to the overall scheme of things matter.
We long to be free–from want…from guilt, from fear, from condemnation, from death, from loneliness, FROM——-you name it…
And THAT kind of freedom is not something that our Constitution can dictate or our prowess in military conflict can purchase. This kind of freedom can only be a gift from God—a gift that was purchased by Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross.
True FREEDOM is in our grasp!
Paul understood the enslavement of the “Law”—he knew the restriction and the condemnation of the Pharisaic code. He had also discovered the life-changing freedom of knowing the resurrected Christ and would remind the Romans (and us)—
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set (has) me free from the law of sin and death.Romans 8:1-2
We need to grasp this concept with both hands. and guard it as our sacred right as children of God. We need to relish it…protect it…preach it…offer it to others who still feel enslaved by fear and hopelessness and self-condemnation and guilt…
By our words and our example, we must offer freedom to those bound by all those “negatives” that force us into a spirit of bondage.
We have, as children of God, the freedom to be what God has created us to be—unique…loved…accepted…FREE children of our Heavenly Father. FREEDOM is our gift…our privilege…our responsibility…yes, even our heritage as sons and daughters of the Most High God.