"Liberty and Justice for All"

This week we will celebrate the 226th birthday of our country.

We will take time to celebrate and affirm what we each believe this country means to us including how we are one nation under God regardless of what some might think.

In the very beginning of the organization of this land into a self-governing nation, the writer's of the Declaration of Independence, and the framers of the Constitution had a vision, a vision that is captured in the last line of our Pledge of Allegiance, "liberty and justice for all."

Through the years many people have worked hard and have even died to help those who lived here in the United States realize this vision; people like Abraham Lincoln who despised slavery, Martin Luther King who had a dream of a better place, and countless others who worked tirelessly to foster a community where all people would have liberty, and would receive equal treatment under the law.

And the truth is through the work of so many dedicated individuals we have made positive progress over the years, but we still have a ways to go. Our sense of liberty and justice for all still retains some bias.

In the early years of our country, liberty and justice for all meant everyone but African-American slaves and Native Americans, and women didn't enjoy the same rights as men.

But over the years these barriers have begun to slowly come down, and I do believe we are on a path that will make liberty and justice for all a reality at some point in the future.

Yet there still exists a bias, which favors those with money and those in positions of influence. In order to achieve absolute liberty and justice in the most pure sense of these words we need much more then social programs, or political maneuvering, and governmental intervention.

Our sense of liberty needs to transcend our patriotism and national pride, to include love of God and neighbors. Paul in his letter to the Galatians speaks of liberty when he tells us that we are all called to be free regardless of our life's circumstances, because Christ has set us free.

And he cautions us to not use our freedom or liberty to indulge in sinful things, but rather to serve one another in love. Paul distinguishes clearly between freedom to sin and freedom to serve. Freedom to sin is not freedom at all, because it enslaves us to Satan, to others, or to our own sinful nature.

We are controlled by another force, an evil power that can lead to destruction. Christians by contrast, should not be slaves to sin, because they are free to do the right things and to glorify God through loving service to others. The Christian community cares and shares, supports those who stumble and helps to set them right.

Have you ever wondered how the poorest of the poor, and the most oppressed people of the world can still be happy? And how they can shout to the Lord in praise and adoration with ease? The answer is they are free in Christ.

They aren't free from their life's circumstances but nonetheless they are free. We also see just the opposite don't we. People who are free in every sense of the word from an earthly perspective, yet still seem to be imprisoned spiritually and emotionally.

Paul spent a great deal of time in prison, yet in his letters he spoke of the freedom he experienced, a freedom that Christ brings to all who truly believe. Why is this?

Because what our mind focuses on, our heart responds to. This is why those who seem to have no prayer in this life have one, because they have placed their whole self in the presence and assurance of our Lord. Can you imagine what this country would be like if the focus of every single person was on serving others in a genuine and loving way, rather then seeking individual success at the expense of others.

People harvest exactly what they sow in life: a harvest of death on one hand, and eternal life on the other. As I mentioned last week the choice is ours.

So we should be good to everyone, especially to those who belong to our family of faith.

When we experience injustice in our land some want to yell out to God and say, "Why don't you do something to help these people?"

But you know what, God already did. God came and lived with us in Jesus to show us his love first-hand. And in our Old Testament reading this morning Isaiah provides us with a complete job description of what Jesus ultimately did when he walked among us. He was to:

  • Preach good news to the poor
  • Bind up the brokenhearted
  • Proclaim freedom for the captives
  • Release from darkness the prisoners
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
  • Provide for those who grieve

Jesus was constantly reaching out to broken people - not condemning them, but caring for them, forgiving them, and loving them. Ultimately he died on a cross to redeem them, and us, from sin.

But Christ proclaims and brings not just personal salvation, but a kingdom of justice, compassion, freedom, and peace for all people everywhere. Now God has equipped us and enables us to serve others in Christian love.

With Christ as our role model, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the opportunity to make a difference in our community and throughout the world. We have the opportunity to help those without hope, find it. We have the ability to help others realize true liberty is only found in Jesus Christ. Only faith in Christ will put hope in people's hearts and purpose in their lives.

When I think about what liberty and justice for all means, I envision a country where loving God and serving others is the norm. A place where we exhibit active involvement with peoples lives, helping those with political and social struggles, because it's through this involvement that we express love and grace.

Hate no longer directs our thoughts, revenge is a distant memory and individualism is transformed into community. Is this possible?

I believe it is, if we are willing to make the necessary sacrifices on the altar of freedom. To believe anything less, in my mind, is to limit God.  True liberty comes in knowing that because of Jesus Christ we are free regardless of our life's circumstances. We are free from the bondage of sin, and we have the assurance of liberty and justice for all time. This is the message we need to proclaim to all people.

So as I conclude my message today this is my invitation to you. Commit your life to Christ, and long to be what he wants you to be, and to do what he wants you to do. Invite the Holy Spirit to work in you, to make you into the man or woman God has called you to be, and seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, this day and forever more. This is the fundamental nature of what it means to be committed to liberty and justice for all. The very essence of God's vision for our country and world is the ability to dream, hope, and work towards a time when all nations and people embrace the ideal of liberty and justice for all.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, bless our country that it may be a blessing to the world; grant that our ideals and aspirations may be in accordance with your purposes, and help us to see ourselves as agents of your will. Keep us from hypocrisy in thought and deed.

Grant us a sound government and just laws, good education, simplicity and justice in our relations with one another, and above all, a spirit of service, which will do away with self-pride and inequality of opportunity; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Read other messages by Pastor Wade