1 John 3:13-18
13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if athe world hates you.
14 We know that we have apassed out of death into life, bbecause we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
15 Everyone who ahates his brother is a murderer; and you know that bno murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16 We know love by this, that aHe laid down His life for us; and bwe ought to lay down our lives for thecbrethren.
17 But awhoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and bcloses his 1heart 2against him,chow does the love of God abide in him?
18 aLittle children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and btruth. 1
On January 6, 1941, the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, stood before Congress and gave the State of the Union Address. Included in that speech were these words:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
Before the end of that year, the United States had joined dozens of other nations in a conflict that would cost nearly 25 million soldiers' lives to finish, only to discover that more than 50 million non-combatants had also lost their lives. The Four Freedoms that sound so good were for several years nothing but a feel-good prop, an idea, some propaganda used to sell war bonds.
Yet the idea of the Four Freedoms lived on, and became enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. These freedoms echo the US Declaration of Independence, that all men are endowed by their Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Across more than 200 years of US History, hundreds of thousands have died to preserve those freedoms for us, from British Colonists at Lexington and Concord (technically, they weren't Americans: we declared ourselves a nation over a year later!) to the men and women who have lost their lives this past week for us.
But have these lives been enough?
Is there freedom from want in this world? Keep in mind that Roosevelt's Freedom from want was not "freedom from wanting more..." but could also be phrased as freedom from need: not going to bed hungry. Not lacking in the basics of human necessity: clothing, food shelter....yet we are not there.
Is there freedom of speech and expression? Not even within our own country, sometimes: look at the challenge of people like the Americans arrested in Michigan last year simply for sharing the Gospel. Look at the efforts over the last ten years to quiet dissent and discussion. Consider around the world: in some nations, one cannot "defame" a dead man without prosecution, while other countries see violence as the means to silence it.
Is there freedom from fear? Fear? When boarding an aircraft in the United States requires either a virtual strip-search via computer or pat-down at the hands of the government, are we free from fear? No--we live with it. Students pass through metal detectors to enter their schools: churches hire armed security. We cringe at the sight of others who look different from ourselves. We have plenty of fear.
Then there is freedom of belief. Do we have that? Roosevelt stated that all people deserved the freedom to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world. Do we see that freedom? Do we have it? Are we willing to stand for it for others?
You see, as we take time as a nation to consider the cost of our country being as close to seeing these freedoms exist as any other place on earth, we need to ponder a few things:
1. What is the source of these freedoms? It is important to realize that men and women have died to safeguard and secure our freedom, but that freedom is a gift ultimately from God.
2. What is the purpose of these freedoms? This is where we must put our focus as a church and as Christian people. If our freedom is a gift from God, why did He give it? Why is it worth preserving at the cost of human life? Looking all the way back to Genesis: people are made in the image of God and the life of even one is precious. Why do we have them?
Let's look to 1 John 3:13-18 to find part of the answer to this question.
1. It is not to be liked: God has not granted us freedom that the world will like us. One of the biggest mistakes that we as Christian people make is to seek approval from those not of God. We should expect the hatred of those who hate God. And do not be deceived: no one is neutral to the Almighty. One is either for Him or against Him.
2. It is not to amass stuff (v. 17): the stuff we received is for us to use to the glory of God, whether through
3. It is not to fight amongst ourselves: we spend enormous amounts of energy bickering over unimportant things---and it is leading to the decline of the influence of Christians in America. Why should the world listen to us when we cannot agree over trivial matters? Truth must be stood for---it is not a trifle for a church to stand for the Word of God, but it is a trifle to bicker over many other things----and it is unproductive to fight over non-Scripture traditions.
4. It is to come to Christ: v. 14/16: the freedom to worship is endowed by our Creator that we may come to Christ for salvation. One mistake we must not make is to think that we are free to worship God on our own terms. While this is what should be seen from other people, we need to understand that we must come to God on His own terms. We must see what Scripture commands: that no one comes to the Father without Christ (John 14:6) and that He is able to save any who come to Him (Hebrews 7:25)
5. It is to love in action: John speaks to the same issue as James: love is not still. Love acts---love serves---love meets needs. A quick note on love, though: love is acting in the best interest of someone else---it does not always do what another wants, but does what they need. To love is to treat as God treated
6. It is to love in teaching: truth here is teaching---making disciples----following Christ.
7. It is to love by sacrifice: if we love, our lives are forfeit for the Gospel of Christ and for the sake of our fellow believers. Jesus said it (John 15:13) and here His disciple, John repeats the idea. If we love, we will sacrifice.
As we stop this weekend and think about freedom, let us consider the sacrifices that have made our freedom possible:
The lives given for our earthly, temporary, and imperfect freedom---are we living well in light of those freedoms or do we take them for granted?
Even more importantly, are we using them as God intended? Are we using our freedom for the Glory of God? Or do we count in as our own and hold it tightly?