How do you think North Korean refugees envision freedom? Take a look at your schedule today, only two days from the 4th of July - a holiday when we celebrate our freedom as citizens of the United States.
What is it filled with? Work to complete? Errands to run? We are all so busy these days. If our jobs aren’t taking more than 40 hours a week, our social lives or families are. None of us are trapped or persecuted by authorities. But many may feel oppressed and stuck in the hectic cycle of our day-to-day lives.
On Saturday, the New York Times printed a fascinating column about this. Author Tom Kreider spells out the pitfalls of modern American busyness.
“Almost everyone I know is busy,” he said. “They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications.”
And what it all adds up to, according to Kreider, is a pile of work to cover up the fact that our lives are often empty.
What does it mean, then, if even our scheduled leisure time, our rigorously organized holidays and days set aside for exciting activities add up to empty lives? If freedom is not found in barbecue or fireworks or all the leisure in the world, where do we stand as a people who are "free"?
The Word tells us quite simply in 2 Corinthians, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
As followers of God, our calling is not to only to celebrate freedom in rights or in leisure. Our calling is to celebrate having freedom in salvation. Because of the work of Christ, we live in the Spirit's satisfaction. We are made whole and overflowing. We live free of fear, of condemnation, of death.
However, we acknowledge still that North Korean refugees, and many around the world, struggle in fear. They are not only politically imprisoned, made slaves of hunger, poverty, and fear. They are not free to hear the gospel. They are not free to access the freedom God extends to them through the Spirit. It is for these reason that Crossing Borders works to reach them, beyond the borders of oppression, starvation, and pain.
So this 4th of July, please help us to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy, not only for our privileged lives and civil liberties, but for the Spirit. Most importantly, please help us to pray for and serve those who need this same freedom. Help us to provide for their material needs and most importantly, for their spiritual hunger.
Bernard Malamud, author of “The Natural” once wrote, “The purpose of freedom is to create it for others.”
The apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5, "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."
Today, as we pray, let us ask God that this freedom that we celebrate would not be wasted. Let's pray that the freedom of the Spirit would be delivered in the healing and empowerment to North Korean refugees in China and the oppressed around the world.