Daily Devotion Nov. 10, 2023

Today’s Theme: A freedom for which I am grateful

“Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again” (Galatians 5:1, CEB).

     Four decades ago, I traveled by bus from Fort Dix, New Jersey to my next duty station at Fort Devins, Massachusetts. Interstate Ninety-five passes within a short distance of Liberty State Park from which the Statue of Liberty can be seen. I had dreamed of seeing Lady Liberty since I was a boy.

     The statue was not given to the United States by the government of France, but through donations raised by her people. Frederic Bartholdi led the campaign to build and erect the statue that was finally dedicated in 1886. Ten years earlier, Thomas Edison concocted the idea of placing what he called a “disc” in the mouth of the monument, so that the Stature of Liberty could speak. Edison’s plan never came to fruition. But if it had, I’ve always wondered what she might say about the freedoms you and I enjoy today.

     The early church wrestled with the new freedoms she had received. In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul wrote, “Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again” (Galatians 5:1, CEB). The Galatians had heard Paul talk about the grace or the unconditional love expressed to us by God through the person we know of as Jesus. Paul had explained that there was nothing one could do to earn God’s love. We can only
accept it.

     Paul also taught that this grace freed us from being enslaved to the legalistic system established by the Jews. But the idea of freedom confused people. Some believed that God’s grace freed them from obeying any laws. But Paul corrected them by saying, “No. God hasn’t freed you to sin. God has freed you from being imprisoned by sin.” And, by sin, Paul was talking about our human bent toward selfishness.

     Freedom then is not an excuse for us to do whatever we want. According to Paul, Jesus has freed us so that we can serve. In a world that seeks to be served, Christian freedom seeks opportunities to serve.

     Our founding fathers and mothers themselves struggled with this idea of freedom. The American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, once said that given we have a Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, we should likewise, build a statue of responsibility on the West Coast. In other words, the pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness make us not only responsible for ourselves, but also to each other.

     Now, please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not suggesting that we are to take care OF one another. What I am saying is that, as Christians, we have been freed by Jesus to care FOR each other. Christian freedom compels me to take a vaccination shot, not only for my benefit, but for the safety of others, as well. Christian freedom urges me to listen to the frustrations of those whose skin is darker than mine because of the disadvantages they face that I don’t have to face.

     There’s a modern-day fable of a man who asked God to show him what heaven and hell are like. God showed the man two doors. Behind the first door was a room with a large round table and a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water. But the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles, and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. So, God said, “You have seen Hell.”

     Behind the second door, the room appeared just like the first room. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The man said, “I don’t understand.” God replied, “It’s simple, really. The people in hell are greedy and think only of themselves.” Then God smiled as He continued, “Love, however, requires only one skill. The people in heaven have learned to feed one another.”

As Christians, you and I have the freedom through Jesus Christ to choose which of these utensils we wish to employ. The portion we select will leave a lasting taste: bitter or sweet. My prayer is you will choose the sweeter serving.