July 10, 2022
Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:1, 13-25
It is so good to come home from vacation time and find that those who have filled in for you have actually set you up for your next sermon! Thank you, Ginny and Mike. Your history lesson and reflections on the thinking of the founding parents of our country have laid a foundation for some thoughts about freedom that I’ve been wanting to explore with you all.
As I read their sermon, over and over I noticed this theme of freedom / liberty:
- From the Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Unalienable rights!! and the very title of the document: Declaration of Independence. That is, freedom from dependence.
- From the Preamble to Constitution: “Secure the blessings of Liberty”
We are a people, like no or few other nations, that are obsessed with freedom or liberty. Our country exists because of a craving for freedom, our wars have been fought with the cry for freedom ringing in our ears, people have come to live here from every conceivable corner of the earth to be free, and people have sought freedom here again and again, and when they experience less freedom than they had been expecting and have cried out for more. The theme has inspired orators, poets, musicians, artists, and slaves. We fight for it, die for it, pick up and move all we own for it and invest everything we own in it. If you were to ask 100 Americans what that flag means to them, I suppose near to 100 would say something about freedom!
Oddly enough, we have a country built on the promise of freedom and still today we are restless, angry, jealous, and resentful because we don’t have enough! Everywhere we turn, the media is full of the cry for more and more freedom!
We have to be very careful to be certain what it is we are actually seeking in our search for freedom! When we have been seeking it for 250 years, and we still crave it, you have to ask whether or not the freedom we crave is, in fact, the kind of freedom we need or if we are seeking something that is not freedom at all. We must ask whether the people with the loudest and most strident voices, with freedom on their tongues, are calling us toward the real thing or an imitation.
This pursuit of ours – we are not alone in it! Yes, indeed, the people of the New Testament had the same cries, the same longings, and the same promises. The times of Jesus and the New Testament were like our bondage under King George III. They chafed under the rules and oppressive leaders.
The Romans were like England felt to us in the early years of our country and they were a threat to freedom in a way similar to how we fear Russia and China today. And the good news of the gospel of Jesus was the hope of FREEDOM!
In Galatians, Paul was saying: Be careful you know what it is that you are running so hard to find! Don’t let your cravings distort your hearts and minds. In effect he was saying: “You have been called to freedom, but be careful that your obsession doesn’t lead to more bondage.” It is so easy in the seeking of freedom to come to believe that freedom is some kind of world where I get everything I want and what anyone else wants and needs is no concern of mine! The minute I become the sole
focus of freedom, it turns to slavery.
It is so strange how that works: You may say to yourself: I’m not free if I don’t get to carry any gun I please and carry it at any time I please. Never mind the lives that we are losing. Or– I’m not free if I cannot listen to any newscast I want that says what I want to hear. Never mind the fact that the truth is so complex. Or – I’m not free if I cannot enjoy the privileges of my race, gender, or wealth that I have always enjoyed. Never mind the many who are left behind. Or — I am not free if I cannot say whatever I please on social media. Never mind the lives that are broken and hearts wounded. Or – a thousand other examples.
You see what I mean? FREEDOM is not free if, in our freedom, we become selfish and give in to our lower and baser character. FREEDOM is not free if we gain it at the price of standing on someone’s else’s wounded spirit to get there.
FREEDOM is not a ME word – it is a WE word. FREEDOM is only free when it is free for ALL OF US. It is only free when we subscribe to the principle of Beloved Community and when Beloved Community means ALL of God’s children without conditions. FREEDOM is only free when love is as essential as freedom.
Paul said in his letter to the church in Galatia: For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
Freedom has its restraints. With freedom comes responsibility. Responsibility for my actions. Responsibility for how my actions affect the people around me. Freedom is only free when it is practiced in the atmosphere of love. May God raise up a company of people in our time, in this political climate, and in this time of decline of religion who are courageous enough to seek freedom for every one of God’s beloved children and committed enough to strive to love with nothing short of the extravagant, radical, endless love of God.