The Price of Freedom

As we approach the end of the Easter season, and as we come upon another Memorial Day observance, we find our selves on the heels of "shock and awe." We have the shock and awe of the war with Iraq, and we have the shock and awe of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Both in there own rights were battles waged for freedom.

In these battles and others like them, many have given their lives for the cause of freedom, whether it's in service, or through the ultimate sacrifice of ones physical life. And it's through the revelation of these battles we realize that our freedom, whether it be civil or spiritual, does come at a price.

Last week I was talking to an army Chaplin and he was telling me about a Bible Study he was holding for some of the troops in his company over in Germany just a couple of days before the war with Iraq started. The men he was meeting with, and they were all men in this particular combat unit, were all members of the Special Forces, many of whom are experts in every kind of combat you can imagine.

They are experts with all sorts of weapons, proficient paratroopers, and experts in covert operations, you name it these guys can do it. These guys were made of steel, very tough, a man's man willing to do whatever it takes to carry out the orders they are given.

The Chaplin was telling me that the night of the Bible Study these hardened guys were sharing God's peace with one another, and some were weeping and praying for peace. Not because they were afraid of losing their lives, but because they were Christian knowing that God's way is the way of peace.

So here you have a group of highly trained men, willing to carry out orders to kill if necessary, and yet at the same time this same group of men are devoted Christians wanting to do the will of God. How does one deal with this conflict, this tension between God and country?

In my mind this is the price we pay for freedom, this tension of wanting to be good loyal citizens of this country doing what we believe is right, while at the same time wanting to do the will of God. And lets be honest, the desire of our country and the desire of God are not always the same.

Now these men I described live with this tension in a very dramatic way. But each of us also live with this tension, and how we deal with it is the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy as a country and as followers of Jesus Christ.

Freedom has been a dream sought after, fought for, and died for since the beginning of time.

Men and women for years have fought for freedom from inequality, oppression, abuse, elitism, and racism. Many have sought freedom from hunger, ignorance, and depression.

These battles rage on, perhaps in different places and different ways, but nevertheless the battles rage on. And as Christians we are called to fight these battles in a Christ-like way, in a way that fulfills God's purposes.

This desire for freedom is what fueled the fire for the making of this country many years ago. "I know not what course others may take, but as for me…give me liberty or give me death!" Many of you I'm sure recognize this quote as the proclamation made by one of our country's great patriots, Patrick Henry.

His proclamation was borne from his fiery determination and uncompromising Christian and moral convictions, which transformed our nations founders dream of an independent nation, under God, into reality.

This brave man and others like him blazed the trail to the civil freedoms we enjoy today. And ever since then, men and women have served this country bravely defending freedom. Many more have shed blood and given their lives so that we can enjoy the civil freedoms we experience today.

Likewise many have given their lives so that the Word of God might live on, so the stories of Jesus might be taught, so that those who call themselves followers of Jesus might live as true disciples without fear of persecution, so that all people who hear of Jesus might experience eternal freedom.

But freedom does come at a price. The obvious price is that of ones physical life, given so that others might live, a gift we shouldn't take lightly but give thanks for.

But the truth is many of us will not be asked to give our life for the cause of freedom, at least from the perspective of physical death. Yet we are called to sacrifice our way of life for freedom.

For one to be truly free means we are not being held back, or lacking in our ability to follow Jesus. Being free means we can see our way clear of obstacles like idolatry, guilt, unbelief, and self-centeredness, which work to move us away from Christ. And when you think about it, there are many challenges we face everyday that can keep us from being free.

To experience freedom in the fullest possible terms we must be willing to let go of our past, realizing if we keep pulling on the threads of our past we will unravel the tapestry of our life.

The past is just that, the past, it can't be changed. We are no longer the persons we once were. It's time to move on, using the learning's from our past to propel us to a brighter future. The price of freedom demands we let go of our past. To experience freedom we must be willing to confess our sins, repent, and move to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus has won the battle.

Receive his forgiveness and enjoy the freeing knowledge that through Christ we are saved for eternity. Let go of guilt and condemnation. Christ has paid the price for our freedom. The desire for freedom also means we need to realize all people will not think alike. Just as we are free to believe, say, and do what we want to, for the most part, means others have the same right, whether we agree with it or not. This is a price we pay for freedom.

This doesn't mean we have to agree with others, agree with their life styles, or accept what they do. But it does mean we have to acknowledge that they are free to make the choices they make.

Our mission as Christians is to influence them in the ways of Jesus, and to pray that God will transform them into a new life in Christ.

Our scripture readings today offer us the key to freedom. And the key that unlocks freedoms gate is love.

Jesus tells us to remain in his love, by obeying his commands and by loving others as we love ourselves.

Love doesn't mean we shouldn't be critical of injustice, immorality or the various forms of oppression we encounter. Love doesn't mean we simply accept everything we hear or seen done.

As a matter of fact with love we need to speak out against sin, speak out against immorality, and speak out against false gods and religions. Now demonstrating this kind of love, the love of Christ may cause us to be persecuted, shunned, or cast aside. So be it, this is the price we pay for freedom.

For the sake of freedom we have to seek understanding, we have to set an example of Christ-like living, and we have to meet folks that are different than us where they are, so we can witness the truth of Jesus Christ to them.

You and I have been blessed, we have been blessed to be born in this country, or to have become citizens of this country, and we are blessed to live in a country founded on the principles of the Christian faith.

From the Pilgrims that landed at Plymouth nearly four hundred years ago, to the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, Christian believers built our country. Famous statesman Patrick Henry said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!" These men and women of God, followed Jesus Christ, trusted in the Bible and had character, honor, and high moral standards. They were people of prayer who put God first and continually sought Him for intervention. I believe that because of their commitment to Christ and persistence in prayer, America has been greatly blessed.

Today, America has fallen from a high position of integrity and honor, which was based upon the foundation of God's Word. America's character, which was once the talk of the nations, has now faded because we have turned from the One that made this nation great. We have turned away from the practice of blessing others.

Now the recent events of terrorism have raised the awareness that freedom is not to be taken for granted but rather freedom does have a price. And in the midst of this terrorism, a window of opportunity has been given to us, to once again seek God, to ask God to give us direction. As a result the threat of terrorism has dramatically altered our belief in self-reliance, turning many Americans back to God.

Restoration to our nation will only come by the hand of God, and God will use His people to bring about His purpose. Every person has a part, and if we pray and listen, God will show us what to do. And we must willing to do what God tells us to do, fulfilling our responsibility as Christians and as citizens of the United States.

As free people we are called to address the tension that will most certainly be created from time-to-time between our Christian position and our national interests.

To this end some have decided the best way to deal with this tension is to simply be totally nationalist, allowing the countries desires to guide there thinking. Placing their trust in the political and economic landscape to give guidance and direction.

And still others have determined that isolationism is the way to go, meaning they isolate themselves from anything dealing with the country they live in preferring to live an isolated Christian life. Christianity is to be lived in community, not in isolation.

Both extremes are improper and not in keeping with the gospel. The gospel calls us to love others, we can't do that in isolation and we can't love as Christ loves, simply by having a nationalistic attitude. We are called to live out our faith in the communities we live and within the country we reside.

We must confront the tensions of God and country head on, seeking God's purposes in each case. Through this tension we will encounter choices.

It's in these choices, and the decisions we make that we will see God's mighty hand at work. It's in this tension that we will grow as Christians. It's in this tension that others will come to know Jesus Christ face-to-face. It's working through this tension that America will be restored once again to its high moral standards, focused once again on Christians values.

Today we must commit ourselves to maintain the determination that we as Christians will not compromise the teachings of our faith, the beliefs on which our country was founded.

Like the founders of our nation and the saints who have gone before us, we can find unequaled strength in our Creator. To maintain our freedoms, we ought to seek this strength and maintain our faith in Jesus Christ, committing ourselves to the knowledge of God's Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to make us strong.

The gospel tells us love, justice, and righteousness are superior to wisdom, might, and riches. Therefore, our faith, grounded in love, ought to influence the society we live in and thus the future course of America.

We must not allow our society to determine our faith or guide the future direction of this country. This is our mission as Christians. This is the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy, and the freedoms those who come after us will enjoy.

But most importantly, never forget that one battle for freedom has been won. Not the battle for our countries independence, not the battle for freedom of speech and religion, but a much greater battle, which has eternal consequences. The battle for freedom I refer to is the battle that has freed us from sin and death. Because of Jesus Christ, because of his death and resurrection, we are a free people, free from the ravages of sin, and the eternal damnation of death. This is the price God has paid for our freedom.

In Christ we are a free people. Thanks be to God!


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