Free to Release My Freedoms

Well, we’ve been at this for almost a month now.

For many, the feelings about self-isolation have moved from novel to tiresome…maybe even aggravating. The realization that these are not normal times, and the COVID-19 crisis is not a joke, become more real each day.

As a freedom-loving American, I get it. We are a people who enjoy and celebrate our freedom.

For the person who lives in a country where freedom doesn’t exist, such restrictions wouldn’t seem like much of a change. (Aren’t you glad we don’t live under a controlling dictatorship?)

The concept of freedom is ingrained into the psyche of most Americans, because freedom is the overarching theme of the documents that served as the foundation of our nation’s birth.

From the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness .

And former president Dwight D. Eisenhower said:

“America is best described by one word: freedom”

So, we Americans are presently experiencing the loss of something we hold dear. We miss the ability to do what we want, when we want, and how we want.

On the other hand, it’s also a good thing to be willing to give up freedoms for the well-being of others.

Another president of the United States is well known for this powerful statement:

My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. – John F. Kennedy

This was Kennedy’s challenge that we not only think about our freedoms from the vantage point of individuals, but also as a nation. There is a danger that if I only concern myself with my freedom, I may be trampling on someone else’s freedom!

Freedom is like a coin with two sides. It is something we treasure, but it also something, for a just cause or good enough reason, we can release. In other words, we can choose to suspend our freedoms if their is an higher goal in view.

In Philippians 2, Paul wrote to this church about making sure they think of others, not just themselves. He wrote in verses 3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

And then, to illustrate his point, Paul used Jesus of the supreme example of someone who let go of His rights in order to serve others:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as
Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV)

Even though I am an American who truly enjoys my freedoms, I am also (and more importantly) a citizen of heaven with a has been given a new title by my savior: servant. As one who follows Jesus, I have a responsibility to concern myself with what best serves the people around me.

Remember the story about the Good Samaritan? The truth is he didn’t have to stop for the wounded man. In fact, two other people passed him by, coming up with justifications from their religion! But, the man was compelled to rearrange his schedule and take money from his own pocket to make sure the man was taken care of. The Samaritan gave up his freedoms so that another man might live.

Paul talked about the forfeiture of his rights in regard to his passion for the Gospel. As an Apostle, Paul could have demanded compensation for his ministry. But instead, Paul did without so that the gospel would go forth unhindered.

Paul wrote:

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NLT)

Make no mistake, I find the inability to gather, shop, and travel to be a gigantic disruption. As the days go by, I find myself feeling more and more worn out from the all the restrictions. Like many of you, I wonder how our country will emerge from such a long timeout.

But I also want to do my part to help our country – and our world – navigate something that holds the potential to bring death to so many people. In some ways, I view my willingness to restrict my life as a pro-life statement.

When Jesus was with his disciples, they had a knack for arguing about who would be most important in heaven. The disciples seemed fixated on making sure they would have great influence and power. They had no problem looking out for themselves. In one instance, Jesus broke up their arguing, gathered them together at uttered these priority-changing words:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV)

My prayer is that I be a person who loves my country and seeks to protect the freedoms it offers, but that I also love my fellow citizens enough to serve them. Today, may I find my heart aligned with the heart of Jesus.

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