Sometime just before the Memorial Day (née “Decoration Day”) holiday, I had opportunity to watch a good deal of the movie Braveheart for the second time. There were, as you may know, some foul moments, and quite a few gruesome ones, in this movie about the 13C Scottish play for freedom from England. But there was some inspiration in it, too. I was inspired, so I wrote this post in early June and scheduled it for posting just before Independence Day in the U.S.
In watching Braveheart, I was caused to remember that — all political opinions and affiliations aside — freedom is rarely, if ever, free.
Pause for directorial shouting of “cut!” to a different scene. We now zoom in on a rather large man I would often see across the church hall during a period of my life. In my experience, this man was known for precisely two things — 1) wearing a very obvious XXXL t-shirt to honor his favorite team on big days in the football season, and 2) ramrodding biannual recognitions (on Memorial Day and Veterans Day) of those who had served in branches of the military. (I’ll leave alone the inappropriateness of using congregational time for something humanly nationalistic. [OK, just like in TV courtroom scenes, you can now instruct the jury to disregard that self-serving statement that clearly had an agenda beyond the obvious!]) I imagine this man had some personal connection with military service, and I can certainly acknowledge one’s personal feeling of loss over human sacrifice.
It was difficult, though, for me to hear this man’s mini-sermons about being grateful for those who had given their lives for our country’s freedom. Why? Because I never heard a single other thing come out of his mouth. I never experienced a more spiritual, faith- or Bible-founded thought from this man. As far as I knew, his depth plumbed no further than being grateful he could live “free,” in this life, because of blood-sacrifices of those in the military.
While I would never intentionally, overtly disrespect a grave or the memory of a soldier who gave his life for political freedom, I don’t think I’ll ever quite understand why someone would die for politics or national borders.
The freedom afforded by the Christ is eternal. And I would like to focus attention on this lasting freedom.
Brave hearts not only recognize freedom … and they don’t only thank others for it … they pursue it. William Wallace of Braveheart certainly exemplified an unyielding pursuit of a type of freedom — and his pursuit was a cause that transcended the self. Yet, in its most exalted iteration, the “pursuit of freedom” does not lead to shooting or bombing or running someone through with a sword. If the historical-fiction movie is to be believed, Wallace was an icon of courage and leadership. But he died for something quite finite.
A more lasting set of values leads to a soulful gaze beyond the present — and to the God Who ultimately can draw us from all tyrannies and captivities, and Who can liberate us for all eternity.
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Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. He redeemed us so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. . . .
You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. . . .
I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. . . .
Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again. . . .
You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself . But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other! . . .
But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel.
(Galatians 3:13-14, 26-29; 4:1-7; 5:1,13-15; 6:14-16 Common English Bible)
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All praise be to God for eternal freedom. Amen.