Fall Reflection: Making Our Freedom Count
Updated: Nov 9, 2018
Kawika and Byron take time to celebrate the 4th of July in Akil, Yucatán back in 2016. It was a great experience for Altadena Valley Presbyterian Church and the local host church to share their national pride and anthems.
How do we make freedom count?
That’s a question our family has been discussing as we celebrated Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16.
Back in June, Kawika was awarded 1st place in his school region for a poem in which he chose to write about the Eagle on the Mexican flag. In it, he asks a series of questions to the Eagle about patriotic heroes, including:
I wonder, Eagle, in your majestic flight,
Did you consider the heroism in Chapultepec?
And the courage of the six children who defended the city?
Did you notice the rebellions launched by Jacinto Canek?
Those people, who in their hearts, freedom was their purpose
As we watch our son grow, we are mindful that no matter what country we live in, the importance of freedom is deeply rooted in all of us.
So, every 16th of September and every 4th of July, as we celebrate Independence Days for Mexico and the U.S, we reflect on the freedom that God designed and set in place for us by his son’s, Jesus Christ’s, sacrificial death as atonement for our sin.
This leads us back to the question our family has been discussing on how to make our freedom count.
The apostle Paul in Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." How do we do this?
Paul points to two things: Loving one another and not getting trapped into faulty rules to live out our faith.
He says in verse 13, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love."
It’s no coincidence that studies show a strong correlation between volunteering and health benefits. We are free when we lose ourselves in service, using our liberty to follow God’s commandment to love one another.
We also remain firm in our liberty by not getting trapped in using false measuring sticks, such as performing certain tasks, to justify ourselves to others or to God.
The Galatians were being convinced they had to fulfill the old law of being circumcised to be saved. But Paul was saying they already had been set free by Christ's grace, and that it's by this gift from God that we are saved by faith -- not by anything we accomplish or do. So, there was no need for any persuasion or argument on being circumcised vs. uncircumcised. We are justified by grace through faith.
For through the Spirit, we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope (v.5).
And if we are genuinely justified by faith, it will show. It’s in loving our neighbor as ourselves, in loving God with our whole being, that we can stand firm in our freedom.
Recently during breakfast, we discussed Kawika’s poem and freedom as Inez asked the following questions.
1. Why is freedom worth dying for?
Kawika: “Dignity. No one wants to be enslaved or have their land brutally destroyed or taken over. Both Jacinto Canek who led the rebellion in Yucatan and the teenagers who defended the city at Chapultepec saw what would be horrible consequences if they didn’t do something.”
God saw the consequences of our sin and how our bitterness, envying, dissensions could enslave, destroy and take over us. Even Paul cautions: If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Gal 5:12 NIV). So, God did something. He gave his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, providing a path for forgiveness, reconciliation to God and eternal life.
2. Why do you think volunteering (service) has health benefits?
Byron: “Because it takes the focus off of 'me' and my problems. Not that our problems don’t exist. But they don’t have to consume all our thoughts. We can find perspective, purpose and joy in connecting with and serving others.”
Former U.S. first lady and human activist, Eleanor Roosevelt once said:
“The big thing that eventually gave me courage was helping people who were worse off than myself.”
Jesus, the son of God, did not have to wash his disciples’ feet after a long journey. Usually, it was a task to be done by the lowliest of servants. But in John 13:15, he makes his point clear that we should do as he did. God knows what is good for us: To serve in humility, no matter what position or title we have, and Jesus says we are blessed when we do (v. 17).
3. What false measuring sticks keeps us in bondage?
Kawika: "Well, in my world, my peers tend to measure themselves by physical appearance like their skin color, the color of their eyes and their height. We often don’t see who we are inside.”
As Christian parents, we must counteract this flawed teenage influence by helping him to see his inner man based on scripture and that he need only to look at Christ's grace on the cross to understand his worth to God. And we need to make sure we do this ourselves.
So, Paul’s writing in Galatians is a big reminder for us to stand firm in the freedom we have in Christ. And if we should, in error, set aside this grace by ensnaring ourselves in faulty measures, may the Lord help us to quickly remember what the apostle wrote in Galatians 5:6:
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Kawika, 6 yrs old, celebrating Mexico's Independence Day in Mérida