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July 05, 2020 [Green]
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Freedom For Others
Celebration of freedom
This week, we celebrate the 4th of July – Independence Day – “Freedom” from the oppression of England! While celebrating this national holiday, we remember our forefathers, who didn’t have freedom, had to pay a terrible price in their revolutionary wars, so that we could become citizens of this land of freedom. Without their sacrifice and dedication, we wouldn’t be enjoying and celebrating our freedom today.
Once people had to fight for freedom. It’s now a word on everybody’s lips. Unfortunately, this word “freedom” is something that our forefathers never thought of. Today it means “Don’t tell me what I can do!” In these words, I can feel a strong sense of freedom for oneself but not a spirit of commitment to others.
There are specific times in our lives when we experience an expansive sense of freedom. One of the times that I remember is when I was entering college as a freshman. My parents and I drove to my dormitory to take my stuff in, and then I was watching my parents drive back home. Another time for me was when I received my driver’s license. Suddenly I felt free. I was no longer limited to walking or riding my bike. I felt like the whole world was mine alone. I had access to a car, and I could travel to wherever I wanted to go. The freedom that I experienced when I was young was about “I am free from my parents and their house rules!” I only thought of how I could enjoy my life, but I didn’t think about my duty for my parents or others.
“Don’t tell me what I can do.” You can say those words to your parents, your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Nobody has a right to tell you to do this and that. You have to shoulder your own life and yes, you can do whatever you want to do. But can you really say to God, “Don’t tell me what I can do?” Can you really say to God, “This is my life and I don’t need your help.” In some movies, we might see a man who looks at the sky and says, “Don’t tell me what I can do,” and then move on to take a risk or go on an adventure. This guy looks very heroic and even charming to us. But if we truly understand our Christian faith, we know how arrogant and foolish he is.
God’s divine gift
As you know, Christian faith begins with the confession that God is our Creator and we are his children; Jesus is the Savior and we owe him the gifts of God’s salvation and eternal life: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:80). If we truly believe that salvation, (freedom or liberation) is God’s gift through Jesus Christ our Savior, how can we say to God, “Don’t tell me what I can do,” instead of “Tell me, Lord, what I can do for you.”
Yes, it is true that you have freedom to choose things you like. You have the freedom to do whatever satisfies your desires. But you also have the freedom to dedicate your life to others. We know that the latter is better than the former, but it (dedication) is hard to choose and practice because it is against our selfish nature . But we know the life of dedication is the true freedom that Jesus wants us to have if we want to be his disciples.
In today’s text from Romans, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that true freedom (life of dedication) is only found in Jesus Christ. Once he confessed that he was a slave of his own evil nature: “I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (v. 23). In his desperation Paul sounds unable to do any more to free himself from his own sinful and selfish nature, so he cries out “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v. 24) Then immediately he sounds the trumpet of victory, by saying “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (v. 25a). Paul reveals the good news that Jesus Christ sets us free from our own sinful and selfish nature, so that we may live a new life of dedication.
For Paul, true freedom was a divine gift that God offered through Jesus Christ our Savior. This gift of freedom makes us live the life of Jesus Christ our Savior. In this gift of freedom, we are willing to see all people as equal in God’s eyes; we are willing to respect and honor their dignity, regardless of who they are and what they do; we are willing to build up our communities, so that not only we, but many others can live well and thrive together.
This freedom of dedication is what Paul celebrates in this text. And it could be the freedom we celebrate as we commemorate this Independence Day. The freedom we enjoy today is due to someone’s sacrifice and dedication. Think about this. If everybody lives only for their own selfish desires, saying “Don’t tell me what I can do,” we know that we might all fail in the end. If we want to live well together, we know we have to live for others, saying “What can I do for you?”
Here is what we Christians are called to do. When others shout “Don’t tell me what I can do!” we should say “Tell me, friends, what can I do for you?” Only in this dedicated life, we can make our world better and help many people rejoice in their lives. And let us remember we can live this life of freedom, salvation, and dedication only when we submit our hearts to Jesus Christ our Savior.
Come to Jesus
In my closing comment, let me read Jesus’ words of invitation to all of us in Matthew’s Gospel: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Let us come to God through Jesus, so that we may receive the gift of freedom in our souls. And then, let us also take on the yoke of discipleship and learn from Jesus, so that we may be gentle, and humble in heart enough to serve people and bring love, peace, and joy to many others, which is called God’s kingdom. Amen.