Among God’s many good gifts of daily bread, we give Him thanks this week, in particular, for our independence as a nation from the bondage and oppression of foreign powers. And we pray that He would in mercy continue to preserve and protect that independence, not only politically and militarily, but also socially and economically. We pray and intercede, as well, for those who live and work in harm’s way, especially those who serve and sacrifice to defend our liberty, and for those who suffer the burdens of warfare and political corruption in various places worldwide.
We also give thanks for the freedoms that we enjoy within our borders as citizens of the United States of America. We understand and affirm that certain freedoms, such as those of faith and conscience and the right to protect our homes and provide for our families, are inalienable God-given rights that no government on earth can give or take away. Yet, we know that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world do not enjoy the same liberties and opportunities that we have here (and can too easily take for granted). Meanwhile, even within our own nation we see and experience increasing hostilities and pressures which make it more difficult, perhaps even dangerous at times, to practice our faith and exercise our freedoms. God grant that we and all His children will remain steadfast in faith toward Him and in love for one another, whether in times that are “free and easy,” or in circumstances that challenge our confidence and convictions.
As Christians, we recognize and confess that whatever earthly freedoms God grants to us by His grace are opportunities to love and serve our neighbors, beginning with our own families and the household of faith, but also then extending to our neighbors in the world. Let us always use our freedoms to convey and exemplify the hope that is in us by faith in Christ Jesus and His Gospel.
So, too, within the life of the Church, the Lord has provided us with many freedoms. When we speak of “adiaphora,” for example, we refer to those things that He has neither commanded nor forbidden, which we are free to use (or not use) according to a variety of criteria and depending on our particular circumstances. Such freedoms, again, serve the purpose of enabling us to love and serve our neighbors. That can sometimes be a dicey and difficult endeavor, especially when it comes to worship practices, but let us never use our freedom as an excuse to despise or reject our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, let us rejoice that our freedom provides the opportunity to work together and work things out to the glory of God and for the good of His people. I’m not offering or suggesting any “quick and easy” answers or solutions to the challenges we face, but I do encourage my brother pastors, in particular, to aim at peace and harmony in worship practice.
The best and greatest freedom that we have is the freedom of the Gospel, the glorious liberty of the sons of God in Christ Jesus. This is the freedom of His Atonement, the Redemption of His Cross and the Righteousness of His Resurrection, His free and full forgiveness of all our sins, and His reconciliation of God and the world in the unity of His own Person. In Him, by faith in His Gospel, we are set free from the condemnation of the Law and the righteous wrath of God. Our consciences are set free and given rest from the paralyzing guilt and shame of all our sins, so that, come hell or high water against us, we are able to remain strong and courageous in faith and love, abiding in Christ Jesus. It’s not that we are free to sin, but that He has set us free from sin, death, the devil, and hell, and we are now able to live in the joyful confidence of our Baptism in His Name, knowing that we have died with Him, and our Life is now hidden with Him in God.