Watching the Fourth of July parade in North Jackson on Friday, after I had shared the opening prayer, I saw the members of the local VFW drive by.
I thought of all of the military in the church, some here, some away from home.
I was reminded once again that in the middle of all of the picnics, parades and pyrotechnics the 4th is about sacrifice given for the sake of nation, family, neighbors and strangers they would never meet.
Freedom isn’t free.
But, sometimes it really seems like, everyone is just trying to be free. But this kind of freedom that everybody seems to be chasing after doesn’t have anything to do with really being free. The idea free life is like being on a sunny beach with drink in hand, enough money in the bank account never to have to work again, leisurely living at your own pleasure till you die. That seems to be the ideal life that many want. To be honest, at first look, it really doesn’t sound too bad does it?
But take a deeper look and see what this kind of freedom really looks like:
No obligations. A life without any obligations at all except your own leisure.
No real relationships. Because relationships are actually a lot of hard work and if you are invested in a relationship, in the health of the other person, you can’t spend your whole life on the beach drinking fruit drinks with umbrellas in them.
Nothing meaningful. Because a life of pure leisure never produces anything of worth or meaning in this world. Only hard work and sacrifice can accomplish something significant.
No God. Look at the world God created and continually works within to sustain and grow and you know that God does not sit on the beach relaxing and if we want to know God as well than that can’t be the way to do it.
In fact, that kind of life on the beach, actually holds nothing of significance at all to it. It is a nice vacation, but the essence of vacation is that it is an escape away from the duties and pressures of life. But if you spend your entire life escaping than you can’t be said to be truly living at all, can you?
Of course, it’s not always a sunny beach, but this kind of escape that people call freedom looks like: when a neighbor is in need down the street I ignore the need I can see plainly, when someone is hurt I look the other way, when someone is hungry I feed myself, when someone is lost I walk away; all because I’m looking after myself and my own needs first I’m willing to throw my neighbor under the bus so I can get that fruity umbrella drink in my hands.
That kind of freedom means living off of the backs of others (because someone has to make the fruity drink after all!), making others poor so I can have more, ignoring the needs of others so I can be unencumbered, that kind of freedom isn’t the kind of freedom that those soldiers of the VFW would recognize as what they fought for. If you call it simply what it is, it is plain old selfishness, looking after number one, me first.
This is when we make the shocking discovery that freedom isn’t about being independent but about being dependent.
There is nothing that we have in this life that we were not first given. From our country, our rights, our opportunities all the way to our very breath of life, everything is a gift given to us. Independence, meaning living selfishly for self-alone as If I’ve done it all myself, is a lie we tell ourselves that could never be true.
All of us have lived that lie from one time to another. Sometimes we got so caught up in that lie we believe it’s true. Sometimes even when we know it is a lie and not doing what it promised we still try to follow it. But if you’re tired of living the lie Jesus has some good news for you from Matthew 11:28 and following…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Selfishness, instead of being the life of leisure is not only hard but costly. It will cost you integrity, it will cost you meaning and significance, it will cost you anyone who might really have loved you, it will cost respect, it will cost you heart, it will cost you your very soul, it will cost you the ability to look yourself in the eye at night, ultimately it will cost you eternity with God. Are you heavy laden with the price that you have paid for selfish living, Jesus says come to me and I will give you rest.
How do we get this rest from selfish living? Jesus says,
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The cure for selfish living is not becoming more independent but more and more dependent upon Jesus. Dependent upon the one who has given you all things you have already: your life, your soul, your very existence and the world around you. Jesus is gentle and humble in heart, He doesn’t stand far off but receives us even though we have lived as if He wasn’t there. Being dependent on Jesus finally means letting go of the burden of our selfish ways and letting Jesus finally be all in my life.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Because freedom isn’t free, because the life we live isn’t meant for us to live selfishly for ourselves alone. We will always have a burden in this life, either it can be the burden of selfish sinful living that costs you your soul, or the easy burden of dependence upon Jesus, walking in His path of Discipleship. As a disciple of Jesus the burden we carry finally is a burden of love, love for those that have come before us, love for those that have died for us, love for our Savior Jesus who gave all for us and love for those around us and those to come that rely upon us not to live selfishly but to carry the burden of Christian love.