No Freedom Without Sacrifice

Sunday's service focused on freedom. After all, it isn't all that common for July 4th to fall on a Sunday, and we decided to use that emphasis to our advantage. We sang some patriotic songs (a medley of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America). We even had a flag up on the podium. I must confess that both of those make me a bit uncomfortable. I think its too easy to entwine God and country to the point where we get the two confused. It's easy to think that "God is on our side" politically and then justify what we do as a country as "God's work." But at the same time, the freedom's that our country afford as gifts from God and it is right and just that we thank Him for those... and occasionally doing that in church is probably a good thing.

Freedom always means responsibility. Freedom is never free. Peter tells us to "live as free men" (1 Pet 2:16). Paul says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Gal 5:1). Christ gave us freedom at the cross, and we are to live that freedom. But we often assume that freedom means that we can do what we want. When we say, "Hey, it's a free country," we often mean, "I can do what I want and I don't have to care what you think." Freedom means that I am free for myself.

Peter and Paul both beg to differ. Peter says, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God." Paul says, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." (Gal 5:13-14). Freedom means that we have been set free (from sin) to serve God. And am not free FROM others but free FOR others. Big difference. When we understand the price Jesus paid for our freedom at the cross, that places us under an obligation. We are free, but freedom has an obligation, a responsibility, a price.

The 1998 Steven Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan is a powerful parable of of this message of grace and freedom. Two Ryan brothers died during D-Day invasion; a third had died earlier; their mother would receive all three death notifications on the same day. The Chief of Staff learned that her fourth son James Ryan (played by Matt Damon) is behind enemy lines. He decides that a fourth Ryan son is not going to die, so he sends Cpt. John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) and either Army rangers to find him and bring him home. One by one, the Rangers lose men until Miller himself is mortally wounded. As he lay dying, Miller pulls Ryan close and says, “Earn this… earn it.” Pvt. Ryan is given the gift of freedom, but freedom is never, ever free. He now has the responsibility to live in wuch a away to respect the sacrifice. Years later, Ryan stands at Miller’s grave and wonders if he has indeed lived up to that sacrifice. It's the most powerful part of the movie.

We owe Jesus everything. OK, Jesus never says it us “Now earn this.” We can’t do that. But Jesus does say, “Follow me.” There is no freedom without sacrifice, and freedom for Jesus meant a cross. And that is exactly what freedom means for all of us. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). There is no freedom without sacrifice— no freedom without a cross.