Summary: Sermon looking at Joseph and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the principles of freedom found in God's word.
Principles of Freedom
Coming this week is July 4th, the day when we celebrate our nation’s independence from King George and the British Empire. It was the time when we gained our freedom, and the most notable freedom is that of freedom of religion.
But today I’d like to take a different look at this whole idea of freedom and some principles that come from it.
Although times have changed, not much else has. Slavery still exists in many countries and in many other ways.
There are bonded laborers which affects at least 20 million people around the world who are forced to work to repay a debt. Unfortunately the books are so cooked that it’s often paid off only after several generations.
To provide for their families, in some countries children are sold by their parents. Unfortunately, and not known by the parents, most of them are forced into the sex trade.
Yet when we talk about slavery, our minds return to the horrendous acts of the early history of our nation, and while progress has been made from the Emancipation Proclamation to the Civil Rights Movement, there is still much to do.
Now this is not a black and white issue, because people of all colors have seen such travesty throughout the ages. And the church, God’s community, is made up of all races, Jew and Gentile, all economic stations, free and slave, and both genders, male and female.
However, if I were to pick two people out of God’s community to speak to this issue, it would be Joseph, son of Jacob, in the Old Testament, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of our own generation.
Joseph was a young man who was given dreams by God, which really didn’t sit well with his family especially his brothers who sold him to some slave traders heading towards Egypt.
In Egypt he was recognized for his ability to interpret dreams through the power of God, which allowed him to reach the political height of being the second highest-ranking official in the land.
In the 20th century there was a young black pastor from the South that also was known for his dream. His name was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So prominent in our mind is this dream that all you have to say is, “I have a dream,” and most would immediately identify it with Dr. King.
It was these two men’s dreams that defined the destiny of a people. For the Jews it saw them saved and living in the land of Egypt under the protection of Joseph. For the African Americans, Dr. King’s dream saw the rise of civil, social, and economic rights for a people who had been cast into poverty because of their race.
Yet, in looking at what Dr. King said, it wasn’t just for one people group but for all.
“Let freedom reign. Let it reign from every village and hamlet, from every state in every city. Let it see the day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestant and Catholic will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old spiritual song, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.’”
Yet these dreams not only defined the destiny of their people, but it also caused both of them to be imprisoned. Joseph spent time in prison for a crime he never committed, as did Dr. King. In fact, Dr. King was arrested over 30 times for non-crimes.
What is fascinating in both these men’s lives, and that which goes to the heart of our study on freedom is how they responded once their freedom had been taken away.
Joseph established an extreme amount of credibility that saw him actually in charge of the entire Egyptian nation. And while so much was done against him, he never retaliated.
Ten years after Joseph’s release and ascension to power, his father, Jacob, sent his sons to buy grain to sustain the family during this time of great famine. And while they never recognized Joseph, Joseph definitely recognized them. Can you imagine what was going through his mind? Here are his brothers who so wronged him and they were completely in his power.
How easily would it have been to have them taken out and beaten, imprisoned, and even killed? What we’ve learned over the years is that hurt people then to hurt other people. But Joseph chose another route. He chose the principles of freedom we’ll be discussing today rather than the cruel principles of the world.
Not only did Joseph give them provision and clothing, but he also took them off the hook. Joseph knew what the inside of a prison cell looked and felt like, and the last thing he wanted to do is to return to it in his heart and mind. He didn’t want to be re-imprisoned by his own emotions. Therefore, he chose the path of reconciliation and forgiveness, and the spirit of liberty that accompanies that choice.