The Cost of Freedom
 (Romans 8:14-17)

Some years ago a group of historians gathered together to determine how many years of war and peace the world had experienced over the past 5600 years. As they reviewed the data they concluded that over the 5600 years they looked at 14,351 wars had been fought and 3.6 billion people killed. They also concluded that of the 5600 years there were only 293 years of peace throughout the world. Sobering numbers aren't they.

Now I don't know this for sure but I suggest that each war in some way dealt with the issue of freedom, one side wanting freedom from some form of oppression, and the other not wanting to give up on what they had, whether it be land, people, or natural resources. Freedom is so precious to humanity, it must be because we as the human race have spent most of our existence trying to achieve it or preserve it.

It's interesting that today as our secular and Christian calendars converge we recognize both Memorial Day, the day we remember those who have died in defense of freedom, and this year's remembrance will also recognize the 60th anniversary of D-Day. And we celebrate Pentecost, the last day of the Easter season, a season in which we celebrate our freedom in Christ.

So what is this "freedom" we so often talk about? We tend to throw the word "freedom" around a lot, especially today when we speak of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and as we speak of the freedom that comes from knowing Christ, but what does freedom actually mean?

Webster's Dictionary defines freedom as the absence of hindrance, restraint, or confinement, and Webster's also defines freedom as the liberation from the control of some other person.

Some define freedom, as ones ability to do what one wants, as long as it agrees with the person granting the so-called freedom. And still others define freedom, as the ability to do whatever one wants, without regards for others. So what really is freedom and why do we seek it with such passion?

On this Memorial Day we remember those who have served in the military, those who in days or years past gave their life for the cause of freedom. And we also pause today to salute those who currently serve in our armed forces, potentially sacrificing their lives for the cause of freedom.

It's ironic however, when you stop and think about it, that those men and women who voluntarily serve in the military to defend freedom, also voluntarily give up their freedom to do so.

Think about it. When you take an oath to serve in the military you "solemnly swear (or affirm) to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that you will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over you, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help you God."

This oath literally strips from you the very rights and freedoms you defend; yet by giving up their freedom, those who serve in the military make it possible for us to live in a free and relatively safe country. Soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and the like cannot disobey orders, are not free to say what they want for the most part, are not able to make their own decisions, and yes sometimes they are called to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others, they give up their tomorrows so we can have our todays. Yes, this gift we call freedom, something we largely take for granted, does come at a price.

Another cost of freedom is understanding that folks in our society are free to say what they want, they're free to do what they want for the most part, as long as it doesn't violate a law or impede someone else's freedom, and folks are free to think and act differently than we do. This aspect of freedom isn't always a welcome one, but it is another cost to having the freedom we enjoy.

Many folks feel that freedom is an entitlement, meaning it's owed to us; it's something we deserve. But freedom is not an entitlement, it's a gift offered to us by Almighty God, not by a person or a nation, but by Almighty God. It's a gift to be cherished and nurtured, and it's a gift to be shared for the purpose of building people up, not tearing them down. Jesus in his quest to free the world from sin also paid the ultimate price. He gave up his freedom; he sacrificed his life, he shed his blood so that you and I could live free from the bondage to sin, and to free us from eternal death.

Now for us to truly experience the freedom Christ offers us there too is a cost, and that cost involves giving up some of our so-called society-oriented freedoms. For example, we aren't free to do whatever we want, we aren't free to affirm "an anything goes" kind-of-attitude, we aren't free to live an "it's about me kind of life," no, as disciples of Jesus we are called to live a certain way, we are called to uphold certain moral and ethical standards, we are called to treat people as we would like to be treated, we are called to share all that we have and to be obedient to God's Word. For Christians this is the cost of freedom.

But in reality what I've found, these so called costs to freedom aren't costs at all. By not engaging in society's idea of freedom in the most extreme sense, we actually become all the freer. Think about it, what does a "we can do whatever we want attitude lead to," lack of responsibility, hurt feelings, and distrust. What does an "anything goes kind of attitude lead to," greed, abuse, and dishonesty. What does a "self-focused life lead to," no friends, alienation, and loneliness. What does an "immoral life lead to," low self-worth, lack of purpose, and a life void of honor and respectability. Yet in our quest to secure freedom, we sometimes miss the point that freedom can actually lead to addictions and other things that actually impede ones freedom.

As Christians what we need to realize is what society calls freedom, is in part, inconsistent with the freedom God offers, and isn't really freedom at all. Living free in Christ means living a worry-free life, knowing you have a sense of purpose, living with an understanding that we are surrounded by God's love, and are living with hope. I don't know about you but this sounds like the kind of freedom I want to experience.

Many of you know that Mr. Anders died this past Friday morning. As I came to know Mr. Anders better over the past couple of weeks of his life it's clear to me that he served as an example of living free in Christ. He wasn't worried, he lived with a sense of purpose, he knew he was surrounded by God's love, and he lived with hope in his heart.

I would like to share some comments Mr. Anders made to me during one of my visits, a visit I won't soon forget. In the midst of our conversation he said, "I look forward to going to church every Sunday, it's the highlight of my week." He went on and said to me, "I can't hear most of what you or anyone says, and I can't see most of what's gong on, but I want to be there." And then a small tear rolled down his check.

You see Mr. Anders, despite his inability to hear or see well, wanted to be at church because it was one of the places he experienced God. He was there to worship the living God. He was there to give praise to his creator. He was there because he lived free in Christ, and wanted to acknowledge so in public worship. He got it; he understood life is all about God and the freedom he offers through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now the cost we pay for this type of freedom is turning away from society's latest fads, this may cost us friends, we may become the butt of jokes, or we may be the topic of gossip, so be it. We can rest in the assurance of Christ's freedom, which is far more important than society's idea of freedom.

Freedom in Christ also costs us our pride, not something we give up easily. To be free in Christ means having a sense of humility about us, it means being honest enough to claim we are sinners, each one of us, we aren't perfect, we do make mistakes, we do need help, we do sin against our friends, family, and one another. It is said that a saint is a sinner who has fallen and has gotten back up.

Saying a simple prayer to God stating we're sinners and turning our life over to him thinking we have now done our faith thing and will experience eternal life is inadequate. One prayer doesn't stop us from sinning for all time. This isn't freedom; this cheapens the idea of freedom in Christ. Bonhoeffer call this "cheap grace." Yes, we need to understand that we're sinners and it's only through Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection that we can someday rightly stand before God. But this doesn't change the hard fact that we are sinners in need of constant help, and this is why God sent us the Holy Spirit.

And thank God he didn't give up on us and he did send the Holy Spirit to save us from ourselves.

To be free in Christ means we recognize the fact that we depend on God from breath to breath, and heart beat to heartbeat. To be free in Christ we must recognize and acknowledge we need the Holy Spirit in our lives every minute of every day.

The Holy Spirit lives within our hearts, and if we allow the Spirit to work, if we follow the leadings of God's Spirit we can turn away from sin, we can live a more righteous life, and we can live free.

On this Pentecost Sunday we remember the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples and those others present. We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and acknowledge that by the power of this same Spirit we have the privilege to take part in God's plan to free all of humanity from sin in all its forms.

The giving of the Holy Spirit is what shapes Christian community, and through the power of the Holy Spirit we have been given the gifts to share the saving grace of Jesus Christ. By saying yes to Jesus we become disciples, which by definition means we are partners with God in bringing the message of freedom to all people. We have an obligation to help all humankind understand what it means to really be free. As Christians we have been set apart to break away from the ways of our secular community for the sake of leading the community to Christ. As Christians we have the freedom to honor our secular relationships, like celebrating Memorial Day, while charting the course of God's call into a new future.

Christ died to set us free from sin and from a long list of laws and regulations. Christ came to set us free, not free to do whatever we want because that would lead us back into slavery to our selfish desires. Rather, thanks to Christ, we are now free and able to do what was once impossible and that is to live unselfishly.

So today we honor those who have given their life for freedom, and I can think of no greater honor than to complete the mission they set out to accomplish. And that mission is to ensure all people have the opportunity to live free and hear the freeing word of the Gospel. After all, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus.

Freedom in Christ is the ultimate answer to hopelessness and the way to everlasting peace. Yet unlike worldly peace, which is usually defined as the absence of conflict, the peace of Christ is the confident assurance that in any circumstance we encounter we have no need to fear the present or the future, because we know Christ is with us, and because we are free in Christ we can live in the sure and certain hope of eternal life.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade