Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Lectionary: 253

Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.

Watching someone's graceful movement or gracious generosity we notice their freedom. Grace, from the Latin word gratis means free or freely. When Americans celebrate our freedom we're speaking of what our Christian religion calls grace.
We have a saying, "Freedom is not free!" meaning it costs a lot. The expression is often used to support military recruiting and spending. It costs the taxpayer plenty, but if he believes that freedom is not free he pays it willingly. This payment includes military salaries and Veterans' benefits. Recruits expect the nation's gratitude for their sacrifice.
Of course, the proverb also has its shadow side. Providing more freedom than many people can handle entails incarceration of millions of people. The United States has imprisoned the most citizens -- and the largest percentage of its citizens -- of any nation on earth. Most of these prisoners hate being in jails and prisons but they have demonstrated their inability to cope with the open, unbounded freedom we offered them. Apparently, they did not consider the consequences of their free, deliberate choices. They must be confined for our safety and theirs. (Some actually prefer the confinement and limited possibilities. It's easier than a lot of the complexity of freedom.)
We also see the cost of freedom on the highway. We know that traffic deaths go down when speed limits are lower, and higher when they are raised. So we ask ourselves how many lives are we willing to pay for the freedom of 70 miles per hour?
There are similar calculations around the second amendment. The more access to guns, the more people die by suicide, accident, murder or self-defense. The nation is now asking itself, "How many lives are we willing to pay for this second amendment right?"
Some might argue it shouldn't be that way. People should handle their freedom responsibly. But there is no Nation of Should, and decisions, attitudes and policies in the real world have consequences.
The saying "Freedom is not free" invites a second consideration: Freedom is a jealous God. It will not abide strange gods or irresponsible behavior. It severely punishes any infidelity.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickednesson the children of those who hate me,down to the third and fourth generation;
The children of alcoholics, drug addicts and convicts, for instance, inevitably suffer the consequences of their parents' behavior. They are often burdened with fetal alcohol syndrome, poverty and traumatic memories of abuse. Fortunately, in God's mercy, they are also given the opportunities of freedom. No one has unlimited freedom and these unfortunate children might have fewer opportunities than those born of responsible persons, but freedom cannot be denied to anyone.
The freedom that Jesus offers is not free; it costs the price of his blood. But, the spiritual masters assure us, "There is no shadow in the cross!" It is pure grace, all good. Christian spouses seek ways to please their partners. Christian parents provide for their children without counting the cost. Faithful parishioners need little persuasion and less cajoling to make sacrifice for the church. Surrendering to freedom, Christians willingly, readily take up their allotted crosses. And so we celebrate Easter again, remembering the cost Jesus willingly paid, reentering the waters of baptism with him as we renew our Easter vows, and inviting others to go down with us to pay the price of freedom.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.