The free sacrifice of our rights

This week, in one of West University’s local

newspapers, The Examiner, an image of the Declaration of

Independence filled the Opinion Section. This document,

so foundational to our nation, celebrates its 239

this week. And seeing it there, blazoned in stark black and

white, one word came to my mind: liberty. It is in this

declaration, after all, that Thomas Jefferson penned what

has become one of America’s central creeds: “We hold

these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created

equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain

unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and

the pursuit of Happiness.” Since then, liberty has become

one of the most treasured, most discussed, and at times

most controversial of our national values. The U.S.

Constitution describes its purpose as, among other things,

“securing the blessings of liberty” for the country’s

citizens. And our national anthem closes with an image of

the Star-Spangled Banner flying “o’er the land of the free.”

Clearly, liberty is an important theme in America.

Liberty is an important theme in the Gospel too, but in

ways that are perhaps a bit surprising. For the Christian,

liberty means primarily freedom from sin. In Christ we are

free from the guilt of sin (Col 2: 14), the tyrannical power

of sin (Rom 8:1-8) and the consequences of sin, namely

death (1 Cor. 15: 54-57). But the question that I find

interesting is this: what does the liberty found within Jesus

give us the freedom to do? And here’s where we start to

see the Christian value of liberty diverging from the

American value of liberty. In America, liberty means the

free exercise of our rights. In Christ, liberty means the free

sacrifice of our rights for the sake of others.

Consider the central symbol of our freedom: the cross. A

symbol of Jesus’ selfless surrender of his right to life for

the sake of humanity. Paul looks at the cross and at Jesus’

sacrifice as the model for what Christian freedom truly

looks like. “Let each of you look not to own interests, but

to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that

was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:4-5).

So next time you see a U.S. flag, or you hear a patriotic

tune extolling the virtue of liberty, consider liberty from

this point of view. In Christ, we have the freedom to give

up our right to speak in order to better listen. We have the

freedom to give up our right to have in order to better

share. And we have the freedom to give up our

served, in order to better serve.