Monday, May 31, 2010

"Freedom Isn't Free"

In reflecting on this Memorial Day, I find myself contrasting two very distinct kinds of freedom.

Freedom A (American Freedom)
The first kind of freedom is the kind of freedom that we can rightly celebrate on Memorial Day. It is the kind of freedom that people must both kill and die for. Around 7 thousand American dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, around 30 thousand US wounded, and by the very lowest estimates out there, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans killed.

This kind of freedom which we celebrate has a price - and it is primarily a price that our enemies pay. That is, we ultimately exact the price from others, even as some courageous few pay the price themselves.

Freedom B (Christian Freedom)
This is the kind of freedom that we talk about in church, and it is an entirely different kind of freedom in every way. This is the freedom we find when we are able to die to sin and to be raised with Christ. It is the freedom of giving up our lives in order to find true life. This freedom demands every shred of courage that going into battle demands, but what it does not demand, what it never demands, is that we would harm another person.

Just as most of us never go into battle for the first kind of freedom, to kill and to risk death, most of us never truly have the courage to fully find the second kind of freedom, which comes on the other side of a kind of death.

In both cases, I find I can respect great courage in the face of death and sacrifice without trouble. I do not have that kind of courage, and I can honor those who do.

It is much harder to honor the courage it requires to kill, however. And when I am called upon to honor those who "paid the price" for American Freedom, my sorrow also goes toward the many who paid that price but are never found in veterans' cemeteries or memorials - the civilians who always die in greater numbers than soldiers in modern war, and those we called enemy, who our young men and women killed for the sake of American Freedom.

In both cases, if we are to find Christian Freedom at all, we must find it in ourselves to love those who paid the price, soldiers included, but also civilians on both sides and our enemies.

In other words, as long as we cannot love our enemies, we will never be free in the way Christ gives freedom, but only the false freedom that the loaded gun can bring.

And the price of loving our enemies - which may cost our very lives - is one no one else can pay for us.

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