Liberation Reconsidered

Preface: Freedom is one of Paul’s favorite words for defining the gospel. It includes both what Christ has done for us in freeing us from bondage to the world and also how we are called to live the Christian life. We need to be careful, however, that our liberty does not fall prey either to legalism or licentiousness. Christ did not set us free so that we could serve ourselves, but so that we might give our lives in ministry to our neighbors.

The tanks reached the outskirts of Paris in the evening of August 23, 1944. Early the next morning they moved into the city. Hesitantly at first, the people of Paris came out to see whether what they saw was really true. With the realization that the liberating forces had arrived at last, the Parisians rushed into the streets. In joy, men and women climbed onto the tanks to greet the soldiers, showering them with champagne and flowers. It was a day none of them ever forgot.

Four years before, the scene had been different. On June 6 and 7, 1940, Paris had learned the ominous news. The French fronts of Somme and Aisne had completely collapsed under the assault of the German blitzkrieg. Cold fear had gripped the city. Throughout the three days of June 11–13, thousands had jammed the roads leading south out of Paris. A hazy smoke from burning oil depots had hung over the city. The roads had been choked with cars, trucks, carts, wagons, and people on foot, all fleeing, hoping to escape the coming armies.

Adding wanton destruction to the confusing hell of heat and desperation on the roads, enemy planes had strafed and bombed the fleeing refugees. By the evening of June 14 Paris had fallen.

But now four long years of occupation were over. Gone were the curfews. Gone was the fear of the dreaded SS. No longer would rations be imposed by an occupying force. No longer would there be the feared deportations to death camps. No longer would Paris be ruled by a foreign power.

Starting in the early morning of August 26, 1944, crowds began to gather in the center of the city. At three in the afternoon General Charles de Gaulle arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. He relighted the Eternal Flame on the memorial to the Unknown Soldier below the Arc and turned to face the Champs Elysees. It was a sea of people packed from curb to wall on either side. Men and women hung from windows and crowded on the rooftops. Flags hung from every building and almost every window.

As De Gaulle started out, the cheering rose to a tumultuous roar. The lines of police at the curbs bent and swayed under the pressure of the exuberant crowds. Paris was free again. Is it possible to imagine that they would ever want to be in bondage to enemy forces again? The Christian life offers freedom, which begins with the acceptance of Christ as Savior. Freedom from fear, freedom from our past, freedom from sin. Amen.