Freedom

Mel Gibson’s 1995 epic Braveheart is basically about human freedom, how precious it is, and how very much it sometimes costs. The film is based on the life of the late 13th century warrior, Sir William Wallace. Disclaimer: Since most people alive today were not yet born in the 13th century, we cannot vouch for the accuracy of all events in the movie. 😊 However, according to the story, an English soldier had attempted to
rape Wallace’s secret bride and when she fought off her attacker, she was unjustly accused of assault and executed by the English. A grief-stricken and enraged Wallace led the Scots to fight for freedom against King Edward I of England. It cost him his property and his life. In the final scene, while he was being disemboweled and beheaded (afterward he was also hanged and quartered) he was offered absolution if he repented. His final word on the matter? “Freedom!” It is a deeply emotional reminder that freedom isn’t free.

Yesterday our nation celebrated the 4th of July to honor the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Many people know very little about history in general, and very few of us know much about the men that put everything on the line to seek American independence. Someone wrote:

4TH OF JULY, Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

 Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

 Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

 Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

 They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

 What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his Ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t. So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.

We don’t know who penned the above, but it is a solemn reminder of the servanthood and great sacrifice made by these men for the benefit of many others, most not yet born. It seems that a different attitude is prevalent today. Are we as a people focused on making sure the freedoms that were passed to us are passed on down to future generations? The freedoms we enjoy today are largely taken for granted by too many of us, or even misused. But that’s the thing about freedom – it can be used for good or evil.

The Apostles Paul and Peter spent a fair amount of time writing about freedom. In Galatians Paul makes two statements which are attention grabbers. In Galatians 5:1 he writes:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

The “yoke of slavery” Paul refers to is the Law of Moses. Jesus Christ lived a life in perfect obedience to the law on our behalf, because we cannot. Not a single human being can. He then sacrificed His perfect sinless life to pay the death penalty that was due us, so we could go free. As the good book says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) His life and death secured our freedom – freedom from the Law and the sure condemnation it brings upon us. He also provided for our freedom the bondage of sin. How should that freedom work itself out in our day to day life?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)

There are two directions this freedom can be taken. One is harmful because it focuses on the self and takes opportunities “for the flesh.” The other direction is one that is focused on others, “but through love serve one another.” It is freeing because it doesn’t force us to keep records – we are free to love others without keeping score of who owes who what. We just love and let God take care of the rest.

Now, if we, the redeemed, are focused on the other, and not ourselves, we will take great care not to hurt or cheat anyone. We certainly won’t commit adultery, because that would be very hurtful and damaging to others. We certainly do not murder those that we love, and we don’t steal from those we love, or secretly covet their goods, because that would not be loving. Parenthood is a great example of selfless love that most of us can identify with. Do parents generally seek to do harm to their children, or murder them? Do they steal from them to meet our own desires? NO, because parents, with some exceptions admittedly, LOVE their children more than their own self. Our children’s needs are paramount to us. If we do not have children, perhaps we can recall the self-sacrifice of our own parents for our benefit. If the way of love is genuinely followed, it negates the need to be under the law to achieve sanctification. Love can do what law cannot.

Peter says of freedom:

Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.

As true servants of God, we seek to love and serve others, and we use our freedom to achieve this. We are free not to worry about “what’s in it for me?” We follow the loving example of our savior, Who gave everything for those He loves. As it says in Matthew 20:28:

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

We don’t really need to have great head bursting debates with ourselves or others about freedom vs license. It’s not that hard to pin down. If we want to know if we are exercising true Christian freedom, there is a self-check we can perform, right in the privacy of our own homes. It involves, of course, the love factor. Now we all know that Christians are not perfect, but we should be able to honestly assess the predominate direction of the path we are on. If it’s all me, my, mine, that’s not a really good sign. If we are seeking to live our lives for the good of others, out of a motive of love, that’s Christian freedom. And not to despair – if our honest assessment finds us lacking in love, we can ask God to increase our love for Him and others. We have been set free – Hallelujah! As we love and serve one another we use our freedom for good.Ω

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