A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the 4th of July and many of us did so in a variety of different ways. Perhaps you went out and purchased a ton of fireworks to set off with your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Maybe you jumped in a pontoon boat and headed out onto Lake Wisconsin to enjoy the water and some rays of sunshine. Perhaps you decided to stay home and avoid the craziness of all the partying and revelry that comes with a holiday that celebrates America’s independence with booming and lots of flashes of light. Whatever you decided to do I’m guessing that at some point you may have taken a little time to think about the freedom that we enjoy as citizens of this great country. After all, countless people have sacrificed more than we will ever know, so that we can enjoy the liberty and independence that has been given to us.
As I think about the freedom we have in the United States I am reminded of a different kind of freedom that has been won for us through the sacrificial actions of Jesus Christ on the cross. In fact, as I was reading a devotional written by Alvin Rogness, I was inspired by his understanding of the Apostle Paul’s words in his 1st Corinthians chapter 7. In his letter Paul reminds us that each of us is to lead a life that the Lord has assigned to us, which God has called us into. He informs individuals who had actually been slaves that even though they may become free, they are to still consider themselves to be servants of Christ. Alvin Rogness summarizes this by saying, “In Christ we are set free from the passions that chain us to ourselves. We are set free to turn to another’s need.”
I often wonder if we sometimes take the freedom that Jesus fought for, suffered for, and died for, for granted. We may confess that we have faith in God’s son, and we may recite the core principals of the Christian faith (that our savior sacrificed himself so that we can enjoy an eternal relationship with our heavenly Father), but do we truly understand what Jesus has done for us and does it actually make a difference in how we live out our daily lives? After all, if we are freed from sin, which is often tied to our selfishness, our self-centeredness, and our self-interest, than why do we find it so hard to let go of ourselves so that we can put God first, as well as the needs of others?
Whenever I am teaching our Confirmation students about the grace of God, I always remind them that Jesus didn’t die for us so that we can obtain a get out of jail free card. He didn’t do what he did so that we could live our lives in whatever way we see fit. Our Lord and savior came down to this earth, became one of us, took on our human nature, and was crucified so that we could learn about the unconditional love God has for us. So that we could also be transformed by his actions, and with the help of his Spirit, seek to live our own lives in a different way. As he reminds his disciples in Matthew 16:24-25, and that includes us, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Thanks be to God that Jesus has delivered us from the power of sin and death! That is definitely something worth celebrating, and yet, as we celebrate this freedom I think it is important for us to remember that Jesus has set us free so that we can learn to be like him. This may mean learning to let go of what we want all the time, it may mean making certain sacrifices in order help others by giving up our time, talents, and treasures, and it most certainly means making an effort to put God first in everything we do at home, at work, in our community, and at church! As Alvin Rogness writes, “To be set free from anxiety about ourselves, to be set free from defending our own rights, and turning to ‘swing free’ in service to others –these are the truly rich moments of life. We know the joy of a slavery that is freedom!”