This is July the 4th weekend, so I thought I would talk to you about freedom.
In the Genesis stories of creation, it is freedom that separates humankind from the animals. God programmed animals to follow their instincts. God created human beings in his own image and gave us the freedom to do what we please, right or wrong.
Some people think that freedom means being able to do anything they want to do. That is not so. Consider these two examples.
One person says, “I am free, and I am going to do anything I want to do.” He then becomes the slave of his appetites. He eats to excess. He drinks too much. He uses drugs for recreation. Soon his appetites control him. You know the old story: First, the man takes a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes a man. The man still says, “I am free!” But he is freer to lie on a couch in a stupor than he is to climb a mountain, run a race, hold a job, or do something worthwhile with his life.
Another person says, “I am free, and I want to remain free.” When he buys his first good suit, he says to himself, “I am never going to outgrow this suit. I am going to control my appetites.” He eats, but not to excess. He drinks, but not too much. He uses prescription drugs, but only when he has to. He runs or swims every day, and on weekends he often rides his bike 100 miles. He is free to lie on his couch and watch all the TV he wants, but he is also free to complete a triathlon, run a successful business, and volunteer in his church and community.
Which of these two people do you think is free?
In the Bible, freedom means several different things. Freedom means freedom from oppression. God sent Moses to Pharaoh, saying, “Let my people go!” God is always on the side of the poor and oppressed. Freedom means freedom to resist the powers, the mob, and the crowd, and do the right thing even when everyone else, even those closest to us, are doing the wrong thing. Freedom means freedom from sin, and sickness, and early death. Remember, in this life, it is not so much that we are punished for our sins but by our sins. Above all, freedom means the freedom to live in accordance with God’s plan for our lives. We are free to serve God and to serve others, and in so doing, we discover we are also serving ourselves. As Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life, will find it.” Jesus came to make us free. In John 8:36, he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin…(but) if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” And in Galatians 5:1, St. Paul writes, “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” With God’s help, Christians are free from every form of slavery, whether to the law, or to sin, or to our appetites
Let me close with this thought: Freedom is not freedom unless it is shared. That is why I am so glad to be an American. America is not the kingdom of God. It is not perfect, but it is getting better, and we who know what freedom looks like must help it along. The poet Langston Hughes got it just right when he wrote:
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has yet been—
And yet must be—the land where every (one) is free.
Enjoy the rest of your July 4th Weekend, and remember that freedom is one of the Wonderful Words of Life.
Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.