Sunday, May 29, 2005

Squandering freedom

Freedom is one of the blessings we most take for granted in America. Our forefathers and many servicemen have died for it—for us. By not appreciating their sacrifice and doing something valuable with that freedom, we do the unthinkable. We squander it.

In that sense, freedom for us can be a little like old money. It’s been inherited, not earned or sacrificed for, and there is always something less meaningful about things that are just handed to us.

Nevertheless, our freedom is no less valuable or real—just perhaps unrealized or misused. And so it is with our freedom in Christ. We have inherited, not because of anything we’ve done, but by the grace and forgiveness of a just but loving God, a freedom that is to be treasured and used only for exceedingly high purposes in our time here on Earth. But do we always use it for such? Or do we squander it on self-indulgence? Or worse yet, do we hide it away?

It is possible to be free and yet to not understand what it means to be free. I’m sure many slaves who woke up free on January 1, 1863, had no idea what freedom meant on a practical level, or how they were going to use it. They knew the hard life they had been freed from of indignity and suffering. But they had no way of knowing what they were now free to accomplish. That could only come with time as they lived out their freedom.

I imagine that it’s similar with us as slaves of this world set free by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I doubt that any of us fully realized the scope of what we were freed from when we gained our Christian liberty. I also doubt that any of us fully realized what we were now free to accomplish in the cause of the gospel. The more we realize what we have been freed from, the more we need to act upon what we are now free to do, which is to serve the God who created us in every moment of our lives:

    Galatians 2:1,13,14 - Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. … For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (NKJV)
It’s one thing if we don’t yet know we have liberty. It’s quite another to know it and fail to use it. I assume there were slaves that were intentionally kept in the dark about the emancipation proclamation, and who remained enslaved simply because they didn’t know they had been freed. But when we are simply afraid to use our newfound liberty in service to God and man, we are essentially taking a blessing from God and burying it, just like the man in the parable of the talents buried his sum of money. It was supposed to have been used and multiplied. Instead it was wasted. It returned no value to the master whatsoever. Is that how we treat our Christian liberty?

We’ve been given a gift. Jesus Christ signed our own personal emancipation proclamation with his own blood. How dare we take this precious freedom, bought and paid for by the suffering of God’s own Son, and hide it in the closet, never to be exercised! God created mankind to long for freedom and to flourish in it, not to put it in a glass case and look at it.

Let’s not squander this awesome gift of God by merely acknowledging it. Don’t let our freedom become like old money, to be squandered and taken for granted. Instead, let’s use it for good and multiply it. We ought to let our minds drift among the endless possibilities of how we have been freed to serve one another. God placed this Christian liberty in our care. Let’s not bury it in our backyard.

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