I got to go soaring again with Captain Brad, this time westbound over the farmlands of Missouri. Within minutes of leaving Paducah, my illustrious pilot was pointing out Cairo, Illinois – which sits at the very lower tip of the Land of Lincoln, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge.
I’m sure I’m among many of you who read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a child. As Huck and runaway Jim float downriver, Jim restlessly searches the riverbank for the town of Cairo:
“We’s safe, Huck, we’s safe! Jump up and crack yo’ heels! Dat’s de good ole Cairo at las’, I jis knows it!” I says: “I’ll take the canoe and go and see, Jim. It mightn’t be, you know.” He jumped and got the canoe ready, and put his old coat in the bottom for me to set on, and give me the paddle; and as I shoved off, he says: “Pooty soon I’ll be a-shout’n’ for joy, en I’ll say, it’s all on accounts o’ Huck; I’s a free man, en I couldn’t ever ben free ef it hadn’ ben for Huck; Huck done it!”
Jim and Huck want to get to Cairo so they can buy passage on a steamboat up the Ohio and east to where Jim thinks his family is – remember? Historically, Cairo wasn’t the friendliest place to escaping slaves, but it did offer access to the rivers, and even to Canada, or a possibility at overland transportation to Chicago.
Yes, those memories flooded my mind as my eyes canvassed Cairo and its environs, and as I remembered the tale that had such an impact on me as a kid. And though I’m not a kid anymore, I’ve never forgotten the feelings I experienced as a child pondering intently what it would be like not to be free. That was the power of the story penned by Samuel Clemens (Twain’s real name).Cairo offered a chance at freedom.
We long to be free. We see it in our study of Exodus. We have an innate desire to be free.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus is that you and I are free in Christ. Absolutely free. We’ve been rescued from God’s wrath. We’ve been rescued from our sin. We’ve been rescued from the impossibility of manmade religion to keep any of its promises. We’ve been rescued from a guilty conscience. We’ve been rescued from death. We’ve been rescued from all fear. We’re absolutely free! Free in our Lord Jesus Christ!
The Apostle Paul warns that we can turn in our freedom for imprisonment. In Galatians 5:1 we read: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
What does Paul mean? We used to be slaves to sin, and Christ died to set us free from all of that. Why would any gospel-hearing person ever go back to slavery?
I think that – in order for our lives to reflect the brightness and joy of the freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ – four gospel truths must take root and bear fruit in (and through) each one of us:
- In my life, Law has been replaced by Love. Does that mean I sin up a storm because I can? Of course not! It means that, if my heart has truly been made new in Christ, my relationship with God is marked primarily by love for His Son. I want to please Him, but I don’t have to earn His favor because grace is already mine.
- I serve God from a grateful heart. I don’t worship God only because I’m afraid of Him, or try to follow His rules for what I can get out of Him, but I serve Him out of a soul that is overflowing with thanksgiving. Because He loved me first, and forgave my sin – and that totally in spite of who I know I really am.
- I’m no longer in terrible trouble. Though I’ve always been a sinner, and in fact continue to sin, I no longer face punishment for any of those transgressions. That’s the wonder of the Cross! Past, present, and future sins, nailed to the cross and swallowed by the grave of Jesus. My debt, in full, has been paid.
- I don’t have to make everybody happy. That one thought is freeing in and of itself. When someone comes to me and says: “A ‘good’ Christian (or “a ‘good’ Baptist”, or “a ‘good’ Methodist”, or “a ‘good’ Presbyterian” …) [insert demanded/prohibited behavior here],” I can listen politely and move on. Because I know better.
We are FREE. Totally free. But Huck didn’t do it. Jesus did.
Beloved, don’t trade in your inheritance for a cup of soup.
We’re free! I jis knows it!