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Why Church? – Freedom

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 | Uncategorized | No Comments

East TN Mountain Views

By Norm Schuessler

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary includes definitions of the word freedom such as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action,” or “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another,” or “the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous…”

July 4, 1776: Our forefathers had the courage and presence of mind to craft a document that started the United States of America on a journey of freedom that has lasted 238 years.  Through the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, we have the freedom to live where we want, to choose our occupation, to shape our own future, to follow our dreams and passions.  We have more freedoms than most countries in the world, and we also have rules and obligations that have been established to guide our freedom in light of the common good.  We have the freedom to make mistakes, some of which incur a penalty if it is a violation of law – an obligation that comes with that freedom.

Occasionally we realize just how precious our freedom is, especially after visiting an impoverished area in another part of the world.  Take one more look at the definitions above.  Many people worldwide are not as fortunate as we are and suffer incredible hardships in war-torn areas where opposing factions seem to have absolutely no concern for a human life.  We take for granted things like running water, electricity, air conditioning, excellent medical care, and comfortable homes with large screen TVs.  Chances are we probably would not be very comfortable sleeping on a woven mat on a dirt floor in a tent city of 20,000 folks, with no sanitation, very little safe drinking water or food, after having walked for several weeks just to get to this place of refuge.  We are, indeed, incredibly fortunate to enjoy the freedoms we have!

At what cost do we have this freedom?  We all know that many, many lives have been given to ensure the continuance of this precious commodity.  Each July 4 we pause to honor those who have paid the ultimate price for their country and its freedom and independence; many families remember with tears in their eyes their personal cost – a son, daughter, father, or mother.  The next time you see a person in uniform in a store or on the sidewalk or in the airport, give thanks for them, shake their hand, and say “thank you!”

We have another freedom, that being to worship in the manner we feel most comfortable, according to our own beliefs.  How do our faith and our actions fit into the picture?  First of all, I believe it is appropriate as a child of God to keep in mind that ALL people are also children of God, regardless of their faith background.  We each have our own traditions and to respect those, even as they differ from ours, might just be what our Lord is gently asking us to do.

The Bible in several places says “Love your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself” with absolutely no qualifications – period.   That is indeed a difficult one for us (especially the love your neighbor part) for at least two reasons: One, we want to add our own qualifiers, the ones we have grown up with or have learned; secondly, who in the world is our neighbor?  Well, here’s the freedom connection: Christians believe that God’s abundant love and grace provided the sacrificial gift, which is our gateway to understanding how to love.  This gift has been given freely to all of us, without our asking; it is already there waiting for us to recognize it and accept it.  You might call it God touching our lives, patiently waiting for us to respond.  That one life, given for us, simply enables us to love God and our neighbor, without coercion or restraint.  The next time you encounter another person, give thanks for them and let the love of God shine through you.  Take another look at those Merriam-Webster definitions again… what freedom!!

Norm lives in Tellico Village and is a charter member of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church.  He enjoys woodworking, golf, flying, and working in the yard.

Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church
143 Chota Center
Loudon, TN 37774
(865) 816-4756

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