HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 2, 2007, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

What is freedom for?

Rev. Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, UCC, Lester Prairie

We fought long and hard against the army of the British government to win our independence over 220 years ago, back in the late 18th century.

It was determined that the King of England was taxing us very unfairly, amongst other grievances, and we demanded fair taxation. In the end, we formed our own government based on the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the Constitution.

Our country has always stood for freedom, but today I ask, freedom to what?

We still have men and women going off to war zones to fight for freedom, but back home, we seem to treat freedom as something pretty cheap and taken for granted. Freedom seems to mean how much flesh we can get away with showing, how foul our language can be, how baggy our pants can be as they hang off our hind ends, and how many tattoos and piercings we can have.

We seem to have an insatiable lust for the lowest common denominator. We are free to watch TV all day and night. We are free to surf the Internet. We are free to act cool. We are free to be as outrageous as we want.

We are free to outsource all our production so other countries can use their sweatshops to make our stuff cheap. We are free to work ourselves to death to try and pay for our lifestyles. We are free to be as selfish as we want and amass all we can, just for us. We are free to do almost anything we can think of.

I may not like a lot of it, but I am still glad we each have the freedom to live as we choose. Freedom, in all its extremes, is still very precious. But freedom has fallen far short of its potential.

We, as Christians, believe that our true freedom is found in Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, who was without sin, dying on the cross for all of us sinful creatures, we would still be in bondage to sin without hope of escape.

Jesus embodied freedom while alive, brought freedom with him to the cross, and rose from the dead in freedom to be the savior of the world forever. For all those who face their sinful nature and surrender to the limitless love of Jesus, we have freedom from the consequences of sin, and freedom to live victorious lives in the world.

But even most Christians have been deeply sucked into the American culture, which has also become the world culture. As long as it says “Jesus” on your bumper sticker, you can feel good about driving a big SUV, having a huge house with all the gadgets, and pretty much ignoring all the suffering around the world.

The “live simply so others can simply live” way of thinking didn’t last very long. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die, but at least we are saved by Christ,” seems to be the way of many Americans.

I haven’t given up on the idea that American freedom is for a higher purpose. I believe that all the battle deaths weren’t so I could have more channels on my cable TV.

I believe our men and women died so we could have a country where there is high level respect for each other, where there is good education for everyone, where people ask not what their country can do for them, but what we can do for our country. Remember that quaint thought?

I still believe that freedom is for everyone, no matter what race, color, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. It is, in many ways, still the same old song where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer as time goes on. Freedom is still freedom for a few to amass great wealth while the masses work long hours to create that wealth for the few.

Do we really want to keep settling for what it means to have the lowest prices because we are so cash-strapped that we can’t afford anything better? Do we really want to be entertained to death? Do we really think that more stuff and more irresponsibility will someday make us happy?

I think it is time that we really look at how we use our freedom. We must ask, freedom to what?

Freedom to have meaningful relationships. Freedom to have meaningful work with reasonable hours. Freedom to share quality time with family and friends. Freedom to get to know all kinds of people and see them as God’s own and precious. Freedom to enjoy the world without damaging it beyond repair.

There are many qualities of freedom waiting to be pursued by the brave few who take the lead. It is time that Christians stop thinking that we will somehow not be noticed by God for how we are living. We live as if we will somehow slip into heaven past the judgment seat unnoticed by God and just sneak past facing the truth about our lives.

I believe that God is love, but I believe that we, as humans, are chronically sinful and prone to putting off thinking about eternity.

Ask yourself if the way you are living is really satisfying on a deeper level. Is your life offering you freedom to be a blessing and experience blessing, or are you just running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, or a head with its chicken chopped off?

You can stop your meaningless grasping for meaning right now by surrendering your life and will to Jesus Christ. He promises to show you a way to live with integrity. He promises to show you how He’ll meet your needs.

Sometimes the courage to just be quiet in the present moment can be the greatest freedom on earth. Blessings and peace as you seek to experience that which is truly freeing in your life. Peace.

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