By Joel A. Hess –
Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of a country free from foreign rule. Many of us would say we simply celebrate freedom. For sure, people are freer in this country than most others. Praise God, I suppose. However, we also laugh at our brave founding fathers who simultaneously fought for freedom and held slaves. Sure, many a stubborn conservative will throw out a million excuses for the hypocrisy, but no excuse covers the disgusting blemish of slavery. How could someone speak eloquently about freedom and also enslave their neighbor!?
Praise God; slavery is dead in the United States. We are all completely free now, right? We can do whatever we want with our words, bodies, and relationships. We can pursue any career, go to college, paint our house black, and only eat gluten free chips. Arcadia! Yet, just like our founding fathers, there is slavery right below our noses. Next door to you is a woman chained to alcohol, stuck in an abusive relationship, bound to repeat behavior that hurts her because it’s all she knows. Within a couple of miles of your house is a man who had a public affair. Everyone knows about it. He can’t escape it. It follows him everywhere he goes. It hangs over him like a tyrant. At your local hospital lay people on sterile beds, attached to wires, tubes, and medicine, scared of death yet aware that it’s coming. There is nothing they can do about it.
Our constitution says we are free. Our president brags of our freedom. Men and women have died so that we may enjoy relative freedom. But we are far from free, aren’t we? We are chained to bills, uncertainty of jobs, past sins, and death. These little plantations are all around us.
We proudly brag that we are own masters. Yet, we may be the worst tyrants of all! Just look at the way we follow our own passions to their painful end, ruining ourselves and our relationships. We look as foolish as our founding fathers, celebrating freedom and treating others like slaves. The sad thing is that some people don’t even recognize that they are slaves to themselves, to sin, and to death.
When Jesus told the Jews that they would be free if they abide in His word (John 8:31-36), they thought he was nuts. “We’ve never been enslaved to anyone!” they retorted. We laugh at their response, right? Egypt? Babylon? Alexander? Caesar? The Jews were enslaved as often as Poland has been traded between the Germans and Russians. Yet, Jesus points to their deepest slavery: sin, a bondage to themselves.
No philosophy, government, military force, politician, technology, or doctor can free mankind from the slavery to sin and death—no one but Jesus! As He says, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son has set YOU free. He frees you with His Word. He releases you from your past with His Word. He frees you from your future. He frees you from your present like a king who can pardon whomever he wills, and He wills it! He is King, but he is not a tyrant. He’s a servant who paid the price of our punishment, who did the work of a slave, allowing himself to be kicked and beaten and killed as if he was the criminal.
You are forgiven. You will rise from the dead. You are free, not just for tomorrow, but for today.
You are free not to worry about tomorrow. You will rise again.
You are free not to worry about yesterday. It’s forgiven and forgotten.
You are free to move forward.
You are free to screw up, and you will.
You are free to make decisions in life without looking over your shoulder as if God is waiting to smack you down when you make the wrong decision. He loves you. Your destiny and the destiny of the world is not up to you.
This freedom is just as effective in a jail cell as it is on a 40-acre farm. It’s just as powerful in Tehran as it is in St. Louis.