Freedom, Cliches, and Christ

“Freedom isn’t free.”

The phrase has been running through my brain in these days leading up to Memorial Day.

I remember the first time someone thanked me (me!) for the sacrifices I’d made for freedom.

Me? Sacrifice for freedom?

Of course, said they. You’ve given your brothers to the cause of freedom.

Except that I haven’t really. Not much.

Both my brothers (and my sister-in-law) are proud living Marines. The price we’ve paid is small.

All three of my sibling Marines have all their body parts. The price we’ve paid is small.

Yes, their choice to volunteer in the USMC has meant that I missed my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding. It has meant that John and Kaytee will be stationed far from me. It has meant some discomfort to me. But it is a very small price.

Don’t thank me. I have hardly paid.

John, Kaytee, and Tim have paid more. They have given up a modicum of their own freedom, have submitted themselves to be at the beck and call of the USMC. They do not choose where they will go or what they will be. They do not choose how many push-ups they will do or how fast they will run. The USMC says and they must do.

Even so, their sacrifices pale in the light of many others who have gone before.

Veterans of past wars have come home scarred mentally and physically. They fought, some willingly, some unwillingly for a cause some believed in and others did not. Sometimes they won and sometimes they lost. Sometimes the world was freer for their contributions, sometimes it was not. Yet they fought, they sacrificed to obtain or maintain freedom for others.

Men and women have fought and died for freedom, leaving behind their blood, their bodies, their brave deeds. They fought for a freedom they would not enjoy-freedom to live in peace in the United States, in Europe, in the Middle East. They fought against regimes that did not topple in their lifetimes, lifetimes cut short by war. They never saw the end of the central powers, of Nazi Germany, of Soviet Communism.

They paid everything they had.

Yet even their sacrifice pales in light of a great sacrifice.

Freedom isn’t free. Jesus paid a high price for it.

A soldier subjects himself to humiliation by drill instructors, by foreign enemies, by insensitive and misunderstanding brutes at home. Christ subjected himself to humiliation by becoming a part of His creation. He subjected Himself to the humiliation of being mocked by the very ones He had given life, the ones whose life He currently sustained.

A soldier is conscripted or volunteers, knowing that death is possible. Jesus volunteered, knowing that death was inevitable, necessary.

A soldier may bear the wrath of a peeved higher officer, of an angry enemy combatant, of a rabid anti-war activist. Christ bore the wrath of His own righteous Father.

Freedom isn’t free.

Jesus paid for it. He paid a price we could never pay.

I wonder, as these thoughts run through my head, if I’m not cheapening the sacrifice of our soldiers, not reducing the impact of our fallen veterans. Am I trivializing all that Memorial Day is about? I am, after all, making light of the physical sacrifices of our soldiers by comparing them with the huge sacrifice of my Savior.

But no, I realize. If anything, I make light of Christ by comparing His sacrifice with that of a soldier.

How can I thank a veteran today? How can I remember the mere men who fought for freedom?

I can thank my veterans by telling them of the freedom that transcends politics. I can remember those who fought by glorifying the one who Won.

Because he who the Son sets free is free indeed.

May I fight, may I sacrifice, may I live and die that His Sacrifice be remembered.

If you loveā€¦

“How did one find joy? In books it seemed to be found in love–a great love….So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain–if, indeed, they went together. If there were a choice–and he suspected there was–a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.
~Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy

Love is intrinsically dangerous. It is a giving away of one’s heart that opens one up to the ecstasies of love’s return and the torments of love’s rejection. Some might carefully wall off their hearts, seal them against love, in order to preserve the cautious middle way with neither heights nor depths.

I choose to love.

“The best way to confront the traditional view of the impassibility of God, however, is to ask ‘what meaning there can be in a love which is not costly to the lover.’ If love is self-giving, then it is inevitably vulnerable to pain, since it exposes itself to the possibility of rejection and insult.
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

But love is not merely the initial giving away of one’s self, the captivation with another, the heady emotion of shared joy. Love is the continued giving, even when joy seems unlikely, even impossible.

Love looks like the cross.

Love is giving of oneself when it provides no rapture, only pain. Love is choosing the pain; if by the pain, the beloved’s joy can somehow be increased.

I have been offered a choice.

If you love… you rejoice when the beloved rejoices, even if his rejoicing is your sorrow.

If you love… you pray for the beloved’s peace, even if his peace means your turmoil.

If you love… you must be willing to die.

This is not romantic, butterflies-in-the-stomach, shivers-up-and-down-my-spine love. This is cross-love, God’s love. And I pray one day, I should truly learn to love this way.