II Corinthians 3:17-18; Galatians 5:1, 13-14
The Rev. Tom Herbek
July 5, 2013
This weekend, we celebrate our freedom as a nation. But freedom can be described in many ways. In both Galatians and the passage from II Corinthians, we are told that we have already been set free, that we are called to live out of that foundation of freedom, called to be transformed into the image of God, into the spirit of God. We are also reminded that our freedom is based on the one requirement that will enable us to remain free: to love our neighbor as ourself. We cannot be free until we allow ourselves to be transformed, until we allow ourselves to grow into becoming all that God has created us to be. Our highest freedom is the freedom to be filled with the compassion of God, filled with God’s spirit in a way that gives us true freedom.
Freedom, true freedom, sets us free from all those things that keep us from becoming all that God has created us to be. Ironically, this freedom means that we choose transformation, choose responsibility for ourselves and choose to do what is best for others.
As citizens of this country, as people of God, we must find ways to make a difference. As John Kennedy once said: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the judge of our deeds, let us go forth, asking God’s blessing and God’s help, but knowing that, here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.”
God has created us all. May we use our freedom so that all people might become all that God has created them to be, that all people might truly be transformed.
Sometimes this use of freedom means that we make choices that are difficult, that require great sacrifice.
One day, a woman came to see a plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, about her husband. She told the doctor that her husband had been injured while attempting to save his parents from a burning house. He couldn’t get to them. They both were killed, and his face was burned and disfigured. He had given up on life and gone into hiding. He wouldn’t let anyone see him, not even his wife.
Dr. Maltz told the woman not to worry. “With the great advances we’ve made in plastic surgery in recent years,” he said, “I can restore his face.” But she told Dr. Maltz that she felt that her husband believed that his disfigured face was what he deserved because he had not saved his parents from the fire. So far, he had refused to even consider having surgery to repair the burns, and would not even come out of his room. His wife had to leave his meals at the door. He would not even let her see him.
So she asked Dr. Maltz: “I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him! If I can share in his pain, then maybe he will let me back into his life. I love him so much; I want to be with him. And if that is what it takes; then that is what I want to do.”
Of course, Dr. Maltz would not agree, but he was moved deeply by this wife’s determined love. He got her permission to try to talk to her husband. He went to the man’s room and knocked, but there was no answer.
Dr. Maltz called loudly through the door, “I know you are in there, and I know you can hear me, so I’ve come to tell you that my name is Dr. Maxwell Maltz. I’m a plastic surgeon, and I want you to know that I can restore your face.”
There was no response. Again, he called loudly, “Please come out and let me help restore your face.” But again, there was no answer. Still speaking through the door, Dr. Maltz told the man what his wife was asking Dr. Maltz to do. “Your wife wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face like yours in the hope that you will let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you. That’s how much she wants to help you!”
There was a brief moment of silence, and then ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn. The disfigured man came out to make a new beginning and to find a new life. He was set free, brought out of hiding, given a new start by his wife’s love.
When we have the freedom to be transformed, we are then able to walk in the steps of those we care about, able to love them in extraordinary ways. Sometimes we must be radical in our reaching-out. Sometimes we must use our freedom to make sacrifices in order to set our neighbors free. We are only free when we are helping those in need, caring for those who are hurt, or alone, or feeling hopeless. It takes courage to be free. It takes compassion to be free. It takes transformation and love to be free.
Freedom is not won only by those who fight for it in a Revolutionary War. It is won every day that one person puts the best interests of their neighbor as equal to their own. The irony is that, only when we do this, do we become free ourselves. Our freedom is not primarily an opportunity to have privileges. It is freedom for the possibility that we can really become all that we were created to be.
It is the freedom to be transformed.