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freedom grace salvation

“Freedom Is Not A Luxury. It Is A Necessity”

Neal Pollard

Earlier today, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke to a joint-session of the United States Congress. It was an impassioned plea, from beginning to end, as he spoke in his broken English about the trials his people have endured for many months now.  He gave poignant examples of brave men who were killed for their courageous stand against ruthless enemies.  One of his imploring calls for help invoked our own past path as a nation and our pursuit of liberty.  It was about then that he exclaimed, “Freedom is not a luxury. It is a necessity!”

Poroshenko was speaking not of the Ukrainians but of the Russian people, who he believed had been fed the idea that freedom is a luxury that they should not necessarily expect to enjoy.  He rebutted such a view.  We have such a hard time in our nation comprehending life in a land where freedom is such an elusive commodity. But, for those people, it is a daily battle!

In the spiritual sense, this stated idea is most true and important. Sin is a horrible dictator and master, brutalizing and bringing death to those who are under its power. Eternity is in the balance for us.  Will we leave this life as free men and women or as slaves?  What makes this so much more paramount is that it is harder to discern spiritual bondage than physical bondage.  We may think ourselves perfectly free all while toiling in the chains of darkness!

Paul made his own impassioned plea to the saints at Galatia.  He wrote them, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (5:1).  Can you imagine a nation or even an individual who had endured torture and seen loved ones murdered now enjoying the rights and privileges of freedom but volunteering to return to that former way of life?  It is unthinkable, unless we speak in the spiritual sense.  People continue to run toward and embrace the enslaver of souls.  To any one, we would implore, “Freedom is not a luxury. It is a necessity!”

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courage endurance perseverance

Simon Ostrovsky’s Courage

 

Neal Pollard

Perhaps you have seen YouTube or Vice News videos featuring Simon Ostrovsky’s behind the scenes reports of the escalating crisis in eastern Ukraine as well as earlier reports in Crimea.  On April 21, at a police checkpoint in Sloviansk, Ostrovsky was detained and held in a squalid holding area for four days, beaten a couple of times, and interrogated by his captors. He has been released now and is seeking press credentials before considering reentering this city in Ukraine that has been the center of gun battles and alleged protestor deaths.  While I am unsure of Ostrovsky’s political ideology and he does not appear to have deep religious convictions, I admire his courage and perseverance.  He believes in the importance of media rights and the ability to give uncensored reports of happenings there and he is willing to risk and sacrifice on behalf of those convictions.  The fact that he wants to remain in Ukraine and report on this ongoing, changing international situation is remarkable, a tribute to his fearlessness.

It is hard for us to imagine today what the early Christians went through to defend something greater even than national freedom and civil rights. Disciples of Christ were persecuted (cf. Acts 8:4; 2 Tim. 3:12; Heb. 10:34; Rev. 2:10) and even killed for serving Him (Acts 7:58-59).  Yet, the courage they so often demonstrated in the face of such things is incredible!  They sang in prison after being beaten (Acts 16:22ff).  They rejoiced after they were flogged, “that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41).  Paul, oft-recipient of physical persecution, wrote the Thessalonians, saying that their persecutions and afflictions were “a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (2 Th. 1:5).

The mood and spirit in our country has certainly changed regarding faith in the Christ of the Bible.  There could come a day when you and I might have to muster the courage to stand before those with the power to imprison, torture, or even kill us for standing up for Jesus.  However, as the world’s mindset encroaches more and more into our lives and culture, we must maintain the courage to stand up for Him even when we must stand for the unpopular and even stand alone while doing it.  It takes uncommon courage to remain distinct and loyal to our Lord, no matter what people say and do.  Let us learn a lesson from Mr. Ostrovsky.  Let us have the courage of our convictions and conquer the fears that might keep us from doing our “job” as Christians!