Discourse over the COVID-19 crisis has taken a curious turn in recent weeks with restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus being slowly lifted. Suddenly, concern has shifted to personal freedom. Does the government – federal and local – really have the authority to tell people not to go to work, or to engage in their favorite activities, including going to their chosen places of worship?
This is particularly interesting as we observe another Memorial Day, dedicated annually to honor many thousands of Americans who have given their lives in wars through the centuries – all in the name of freedom.
And I do hope that we all take some time to remember them and appreciate the fact that if it weren’t for them, we’d likely be living in some form of tyranny. They knew – and paid – the high cost of freedom.
Through the centuries, freedom has been at the forefront of the battlefield campaigns, seeking to ensure that citizens of the United States would be free to think and say and do whatever they wish. Blood shed both here and abroad, we recall on this national holiday, should not have been shed in vain.
We’ve become spoiled, but since the days of the Constitution’s writing, it’s become a basic American tradition to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, unfortunately, many of us take this for granted. When something arises to impede that pursuit, whether a pandemic, government edicts or anything else, we tend to get annoyed – or worse.
Perhaps this a lesson to be learned from the pandemic. Not to take too lightly the right to jump in the car and go to the mall, earn a living, worship as we choose, or root for our favorite sports teams in real-time action.
Often, when the subject of freedom arises, there are those who point to its ugly antithesis, slavery. This will always be a dark chapter in American history. In some ways, its repercussions continue to be felt today. Sadly, even though it’s not widely reported, for many nations around the world slavery remains a reality, an unchanged fact of social norms and customs. Whether slavery ever will be extinguished on a global scale remains to be seen.
But when considering both freedom and slavery, in one real sense, we’ve all been enslaved. At least if we’re to believe what the Bible tells us.
“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:34-36). So there’s bad news and good news. First, the bad news: From the beginning of time, sin has been the greatest slave owner of all. Adam and Eve set the precedent, when they defied one simple command God had given them. Since then, like a gene in our individual DNA, sin has been ensnaring us all and fights hard not to let go.
In a powerful passage, Romans 5-8, the apostle Paul explores this problem in depth. He writes, “just as sin entered the world through the one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12). There are no exceptions to this dreadful fact.
Then, the apostle begins to unfold the good news, expounding on the importance of Jesus Christ’s death and then, His resurrection: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).
Later, Paul raises the subject of slavery – to sin. “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:21-22).
The apostle continues to expand on that truth in the succeeding chapters, but it boils down to the reality that apart from Christ, even though it seemed we were “free,” we actually we enslaved to sin, its impulses and desires. Being born again, made new in Christ, however, releases us from sin’s destructive tyranny. As he writes elsewhere, in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
So as we pause in remembrance of the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives so we in America could enjoy the rights and freedoms we have, it would be good to reflect on an even greater sacrifice: Jesus Christ giving His life on the cross to provide the necessary atonement for a debt we could never pay, and offer freedom from sin, the tyrant that cannot be bound by nationality or ethnicity, culture, language or gender. Remember – and never forget.
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