“Freedom Isn’t Free” is a phrase inscribed in the granite wall of the Washington D. C. Korean War Veterans Memorial. Growing up, I remember hearing those words in the song “My Home Town” in a commercial for the U. S. Army and Army Reserve. The words were a reminder that the sacrifice of America’s military servicemen and women (and their families) is what keeps our country strong and free. The same might be said of every American’s involvement in the civic arena. When government action—or inaction—appears to threaten liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, people of conscience are called to let their voices be heard. Freedom isn’t free. Though freedom is something that we are uniquely privileged to enjoy as Americans, it is not something that is automatic or to be taken for granted.
This isn’t Fourth of July weekend. We celebrate Labor Day this weekend. It's a good time to stop and pray for the un- or underemployed, as well as give thanks for the opportunity both to work and to enjoy rest from our work. As we do, Matthew’s Gospel turns our attention to Jesus’ labor to rescue the people of the world…labor that involved neither glory nor material gain, but a cross. With that focus comes the call to live as followers of the cross-bearer...as people for whom freedom from guilt and eternal death is no longer taken for granted. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote a treatise on that beautiful work of Jesus, for whom our freedom wasn't free, called The Cost of Discipleship. He writes: “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price,’ and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
How will your life and work be different this week because of the labor of Jesus that has forever set you free from the weight of sin and death? Our freedom in Christ wasn't free. Freed from the ordinary expectations of life and called to work on behalf of God's glory, we no longer take our freedom for granted. We follow the Lord of the cross.