I watched the fireworks last night. One child likened them to fairies. A different child called them missiles. As I watched the fire fall from the sky, I realized that in some ways they were both right. For so many of us, fireworks are almost a magical spectacle of dazzling light, a symbol of freedom, of hope that we can fly up and away, unshackled, pursuing our dreams, using our gifts, shining fearlessly. For others in the world though, the same noises I heard last night would have caused families to huddle in deserts or crumbled shelters, hoping for the inevitable explosion to occur far from their abode. It would remind them that they are trapped. Anyone able to escape the rockets and bullets may face even greater hardship on open waters or oppressively hot deserts.
Two realities happening simultaneously on two sides of the same world.
I’m really thankful for my freedom. I recognize it came at a price and that I don’t deserve it. The men and women who have sacrificed time with family, personal devastation, and even their lives are heroes to me. I sat with my family and friends last night and sipped on a cream soda and marveled at the beauty in the sky. Later, I tucked all of my tired babies into beds in our quiet, cool, safe home. I recognize how precious my freedom is, and I recognize it as a gift of grace.
I also recognize there are people sacrificing their lives and their families in Iraq, working to bring hope to the devastated refugees of Fallujah, preparing for more refugee needs as the onslaught against terrorists in that country continues to displace people desperate to escape the devastation of battles happening in the towns they call home. And that is only one place where fear threatens freedom.
Very quietly in my soul, amidst the thunderous blasts in the sky, the question posed itself to me: What are you doing with your freedom?
The answer isn’t as glorious as I’d like. I’m a selfish person who appreciates the comforts of home and the indulgences American life has to offer. What little I’ve offered to help others become free seems small in the huge scope of suffering, but I am trusting God to continue to lead me step by step. I recognize I have freedom and power and advantage, and I believe God has given me these things for a reason that is likely not selfish. I know that Jesus took all of his power and influence and used it to dignify and empower those who came to him and walked with him. I know Jesus laid down his life, his freedoms, and his rights in order to set me free. God can move and bring true freedom even in the midst of the most horrific oppression, and there are ways we can share His love and the Truth to bring hope and life to the hopeless.
My freedom isn’t limited to my earthly citizenship to the United States of America, though I am so thankful for this citizenship. My freedom is due to the God’s mercies and grace that allow me to belong to the kingdom of Heaven. I am free because Christ Jesus saved me from the bondage of slavery to sin and death, and I get to live in Him and look forward to an eternal life that offers true peace. This true freedom is what I want the world to know—the freedom that comes in the form of the grace of God through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
I am not here to pass on my conviction to you. I am writing this in the middle of my processing, rather than as a neat little encouragement tied up with a shiny bow because I have figured everything out. What I am sure of, though, is that I need to take seriously the reminder from Luke 12 that much is required of those who have been given much. Here are some quotes and passages of scripture my eyes have passed over these past few days. Perhaps they can help you to find freedom you seek, or to also answer the question of what you are doing with your freedom and if there is something new you can add to your answer. It’s a question I know I will continue to ponder.
“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe…Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all.” –Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 1986
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. –Jesus in Matthew 5:14, 16
You have heard it said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? –Jesus in Matthew 5:43-46
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
If you are looking for an organization to partner with in Iraq, to bring hope and help to the suffering there, I recommend a group called Preemptive Love Coalition, a Christian group who has been in the country for ten years. They are right now working on the front lines, feeding and housing these displaced people and bringing them hope. Yes, I want people to see Jesus in the faces of those who are bringing them hope and empowering them to overcome the evil all around them, the evil that Elie Wiesel, Auschwitz survivor and author who just passed away, would possibly call the kingdom of night. How better to appreciate and use my freedoms than to help other people find freedom, too? If it begins with helping to buy someone rice and water, I can do that. I want to help people know Jesus-love, an expression of the kingdom of Heaven, as an alternative to the kingdom of night and the bondage it brings.
Whatever God calls me to lay down or give up or sacrifice for the freedom of others will never outmatch what Christ has already done to give me the chance to join in His work and His family. May our love shine like the bright, beautiful fireworks I watched with my family on the night of the Fourth of July. May our witness of the love of Christ and the freedom He offers shine like a lit city on a hill that cannot hide, beautiful, bright, and fearless.