Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed his head and gave up His spirit. – John 19.28-30
In memory of Jerry, who loved America and her Freedom
and enjoyed the greater Freedom in Christ even more.
On the news recently an interviewer asked an immigrant from India about why he came to America. The interviewer was trying to make a point about the Constitution and the freedom Americans enjoy. The man’s answer was less than a ringing endorsement, but his response was revealing. He said something to the effect of, ‘I didn’t come here because of papers. I came here because I get to choose what work I do and what my life will be.’ But of course, those “papers” – the Constitution and Bill of Rights – are precisely the source and cause of his free choices.
Like the man in the interview, we too often take our freedom for granted. We argue with one another – sometimes quite vehemently – about the meaning of freedom, and whose freedom has the greater moral claim than that of others. But we are naïve about the freedom we so easily take for granted. In his book,The Case for Democracy, Natan Sharansky suggests that the natural state of humanity is not peace, but war. As Americans focused on pluralism and tolerance – real or imagined – we assume that, if we just tried harder, we could get along with everyone, and the world could live in peace. That is not so. Tyrants and evil will always exist in the world.
Christians more than any other group should know this intuitively. Jesus Christ was perfect goodness and love, the Divine expression of acceptance, mercy, and grace. Jesus Christ also was crucified. All of the goodness and kindness of God was not enough to bring peace to the world. Neither are Americans loving and kind enough to create a peaceful world. Christians aren’t even loving and kind enough to bring about peace in the world. The obvious fact is, if the Son of God was crucified because He was the fullness grace and truth, we mortals do not have any likelihood of uniting the world at all. At least the Gospel is honest about the state of human nature.
Freedom is extremely rare. From our insulated comfort, even in hard times, we too often fail to recognize the extravagant blessing of freedom in a world where oppressive governments and zealous tyrants treat human beings as dispensable commodities. While I do not necessarily understand three simultaneous and distinct wars, neither do I understand Christian pacifism. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ reveals the breadth and depth of evil in the world. Yes, He offered Himself up as a sacrifice rather than fight to live, but He did so to save the world and to defeat the very evil that threatens to destroy humanity. As a shadow of His sacrifice, American men and women continually give up their lives for our freedom and for the protection and physical salvation of people around the world, both today and throughout the history of these United States. Freedom is not a right. It is a privilege, and that privilege is given to us at the cost of the blood of those who fight to protect and defend the freedom. To believe that we can enjoy the privileges of freedom without war is naïve at best and extremely dangerous at worst.
Just as perfect goodness exists in God, so also does absolute evil exist. It is this fact that we are wont to deny. When we believe that peace can be attained if we only could communicate better, we are denying the reality of the sin and evil that crucified Jesus Christ and grips humanity. If we want to retain the privilege of freedom, we must stand against the evil that would delight in our destruction.
American freedom arises from the documents the man considered insignificant. Leaving everything he knew, he came to America for freedom, but apart from the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence – papers – there is no political freedom, and without the military men and women who defend it, our freedom will quickly vanish. Moreover, the freedom of Christ is mimicked in our nation only because our founders grounded our freedom in Him. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights by their Creator…” Human value and worth, as well as the freedom our founders believed human beings merited, is born solely from the fact that each human being is created by God. Apart from the belief in the intrinsic value of a human being because she is created by God, human life will lose its worth as well as its meaning. Human life – from beginning to end – is God’s creation and God’s gift.
Human beings are never truly free until they are set free by Jesus Christ. But until the day of His return, we will be faced with new evils arising in every generation that are viciously intent upon the destruction of any human freedom in the desire for power rooted in greed. That same evil is precisely what led Jesus Christ to the Cross. While ultimately, He conquered evil and death, we live in the “in-between” time – the time between His victory and its full realization when the Kingdom of God comes and “the dwelling of God is with men.” (Rev. 21.3)
We can be Christian under any government, just ask Chinese Christians. But if we want to maintain the privilege of freedom we now have, we must be able to identify and name evil and be prepare to fight against it, with words, with policies, and yes, with war. As we gather for picnics, parades, and fireworks, may we all remember the price of freedom and be thankful, first to Christ Who set the example of sacrifice on behalf of humanity, and second, to our military who make the same sacrifice one generation after the next.
In Christ –
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