It’s 1976, the 200th anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence- 200 years removed from the courageous (and costly in terms of human life) acts that led to our freedoms. I sit in my class of 12 in Hatfield, Arkansas, as we study about the fight for freedom for our country.
“Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” – John Quincy Adams, attributed, The Rebirth of a Nation
Long before search engines, there was the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Childcraft books that I dove into to read more about the brutal battles and the fortitude of those who fought for independence. It was utterly shocking as a 10 year old to read about the wars waged for my freedoms – the horrors of the Civil War and the atrocities of both World Wars.
I began to realize what the saying ‘freedom is never free’ meant.
I went on to read about the fight for freedom and equality for African Americans, studying Martin Luther King, Jr. and realizing that freedom can also be achieved through non-violent means. My readings ultimately led me to Jesus, whose mission statement was to offer us the ultimate freedom from sin and death so we could lead lives of loving God and loving others.
Already struggling with guilt and fear of death, I wanted that freedom, and proclaimed faith in Jesus at age 12.
“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” -Jesus, Luke 4:18
I wondered if I was truly making good use of my freedom when I was a kid by firing bottle rockets at my brother on the 4th of July and having everything I ever wanted without cost to me. I later learned none of that was free either. My father, a hero who served our country as an Army Sergeant, worked as a carpet layer 60 hours a week on his hands and knees so we could be free to live in this country and enjoy so many good things.
Before age 18, I made horrible use of my freedoms – engaging in every vice and sin I thought I was free to enjoy. I mean, I was saved from hell by Jesus and could now do anything I wanted, right?
A psychotic uncle introduced me to drugs by gunpoint, which led to years of addiction and pain. An abusive best friend hurt me physically and emotionally, and a predator, disguised as a mentor, crushed my self-confidence and desire to be anything other than emotionally and spiritually dead. I was a complete prisoner to guilt, sin, shame, fear, and darkness.
The same God who cared for His first children, rescued His people from captivity, and sent His own Son to give His life out of His free choice is there to preserve, protect, and completely free us to live a life of freedom and love.
And the cost was high – the suffering and death of God’s own Son as He took my sins, and the sins of the whole world, upon Himself.
In all my abuses of freedom and prodigal living, God never left my side and never stopped calling me home to Him. God is love, and love never fails. He will pay any price to free us, and He never gives up on us.
“God has called you to a free life. Don’t use that freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to. Use your freedom to serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13, the Message Bible
God freed me from sin – that’s forgiveness.
Freedom from guilt – that’s a clean slate.
From hatred – that’s love.
From judging others – that’s acceptance.
From religion – that’s relationship.
From fear – that’s trusting God.
From death – that’s eternal life.
True freedom is living a life of love- free from the past, free from condemnation, free from everything that ever tries to come between us and our loving Creator.
“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – John 8:36
“True freedom is the gift of the Spirit, the result of grace: but, precisely because it is freedom FOR as well as freedom FROM, it isn’t simply a matter of being forced now to be good, against our wills and without our cooperation, but a matter of being released from slavery precisely into responsibility, into being able at last to choose, to exercise moral muscle, knowing both that one is doing it oneself and that the Spirit is at work within, that God himself is doing that which I too am doing.”- N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision
Lord Jesus, we praise you that there’s no greater love than you giving your life for us to be free. Please forgive us as we often fail at being like you. Teach and strengthen us to be able to offer grace, mercy, understanding, and forgiveness to all people. We need your Spirit to love as you did and to use our freedom to serve others with love. In the name of the one who is Love, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Local Mission Coordinator