For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
There are things in life about which I am absolutely certain. I know that God loves me, and that his Son paid for my sins. I know that I am forgiven, even though I am far from perfect. I know that my wife loves me without reservation, and my family does, too—even though I am far from perfect. I know that in the morning I will see the sun in the east, and in the evening I will see it in the west. I know that vanilla is the best ice cream, and chocolate chip cookies are the cream of the crop. These are but a few examples of what I know to be certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
There are other issues where I am not so certain, so I can waver back and forth in the way I feel about them. I can in those times be maddeningly double-minded. Not in the sense that James uses the term in James 1:8 (“a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”). Mine is more a state of sometimes thinking one way about something, but at other times thinking another way about that same thing. Often I can make an excellent argument for one side of an issue, then not too many days (or even hours) later, be able to argue against that side (of course, this primarily happens within the confines of my own head, so there is little to no external evidence of any actual veracity in my arguments). Another variation on this is when I find myself in one moment reacting strongly to an issue or event, then in another admonishing myself for having such a wrongheaded perspective (with this back- and-forth “reacting/admonishing/reacting/admonishing” at times continuing ad infinitum). Bluntly speaking, there are times when I cannot decide if the way I feel about something is the way I should feel. Bumping up against the limits of my intellect, judgment, and ability to reason is a humbling experience.
For instance, I find myself growing increasingly concerned over the state of our world today. Now, by “our world” I mean primarily the portion of it in which you and I live and operate in our daily lives—our communities—and the actions, events, attitudes, and state of mind of our neighbors and fellow citizens. I lament as I watch events unfold that I know represent a signal change in our modern way of life. I see—as I believe we all do—that we are crossing legal, cultural, ethical, and moral lines that can never be uncrossed. Under the auspices of the expansion of rights we are actually experiencing a truncation of many rights, and, by extension, the basic freedom upon which our nation—with an emphasis on our little corner of it—was founded is being further abridged. With each passing day my anxiety about the future grows. What will be left for my children?
Looking around at where our world is today I cannot help but think, like so many others, that the Lord must be soon to return. Surely with our nation in the state it is in this is an indication of the last times. Surely what is happening in this “greatest nation in the world” is conclusive evidence that judgment is quickly approaching. In the midst of this moral squalor and the dramatic loss of freedom that goes hand in hand with it, I find myself becoming more and more convinced that the end must be near. How long, O LORD?!
It is some time after this mode of thinking reaches full intensity that the “other side” of my mind kicks in and begins to argue. It is in moments like these that I ask myself a question that goes something like this, “Could you possibly be more arrogant?” What is it that makes me think—that makes us think—that God’s decisions about judgment are based upon the rise and/or fall of the United States of America? Since when did our young nation with its unique implementation of democracy become the measure by which God will decide the end of the world? Since when did my
little neighborhood become God’s metric? Why is it that our thoughts about “the end” are inextricably wrapped up in the waxing and waning of our civil liberties? We are important to God, yes; but we are just one of hundreds of civilizations and cultures throughout history. We are not even the originators of democracy—that credit goes to the Greeks 25 centuries ago. We are but a tiny little speck across the continuum of human history. Consider this: the psalmist in Psalm 90 laments that life is brief, 70 years, or 80 if we have the strength. James writes that our lives are but a mist that appears for a time and then vanishes. So from that perspective, a country 241 years old is equal to three mists; three vapors. At the risk of sounding ungrateful—which I certainly am not—I say the following: We get so wrapped up in THIS event and THAT decision and in “look what’s happening NOW that affects my rights and freedoms” that we fail to appreciate what liberty truly is. Like most anyone else, I believe that God allows people to make their own decisions and to experience the results of those decisions. In every society, people in power—and at times the “mob” itself—make decisions that have a deleterious effect on society as a whole. Although those effects may seem to us that God is no longer with us (and he certainly has been “invited to leave” our schools and the majority of our other public places), I am certain that God is always with his people, regardless what the social or political environment may be. To think otherwise is to dismiss the experience
of generations of Christians who have gone before us, including the very apostles who have brought to us most of this Book we have today. It is also to discount the plight of contemporary Christians in other parts of our world, men and women who labor for Christ under brutal, antagonistic regimes, daily at risk of their own lives. Their governments have no thought for our God, but God is certainly with his people there. And so we join our hearts together and beseech our great God to turn the hearts of the people in this world toward him. We also thank God that he is faithful
in his promise to always be near those who are his, regardless of the circumstances that surround us. Most importantly, we cry out to him that God will give us the courage and the wisdom to understand that true freedom is not something that is determined by the whim of man, but rather an eternal gift secured through Jesus Christ—it can never be taken from us.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”