Some of my most vivid memories growing up were the celebrations surrounding the 4th of July, Independence Day! In Massachusetts, where I grew up, this was a big event: large parades, BBQ's, fireworks etc. I am conscious that living in the Southwest people don't celebrate the 4th with quite the same vigor. Maybe it's the heat, but there's more of an overall laid back approach to the 4th. That shouldn't keep us from a little bit of "flag waving" though! This is especially true since it seems that from our President down, including lots of Hollywood types, there is a perverse way and delight in putting American down. Is America perfect? No, of course not, but the “American Experiment" certainly has a unique place and heritage in the history of the world. It is firmly rooted on the solid rock of freedom and liberty. Pastor Rob Scribner said, "The leaders of that revolution were much more concerned about the tyranny of the English than the other social issues that are brought up today to discredit their character. What they did do is STILL their greatest achievement: giving freedom from the tyrannical rule of England and giving their posterity the ability to chart their own course which was distinctly Christian." We are indeed a nation conceived in liberty! Acquaint yourself again with some of the words from the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." Freedom is written into the DNA of our nation's history, heritage and identity. From our beginnings, people came to our shores for the promise of freedom, opportunity, and a better life for themselves, their children and their grand-children. That's why the words of the Pledge of Allegiance say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Why talk about America and freedom so proudly and passionately? One reason is that freedom is under attack today from both outside forces and influences within. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, some of our most cherished freedoms are being taken away from us. Some of this is being done in the name of "re-inventing America"? I didn't know that it needed to be re-invented! It is so easy for people to take freedom for granted and lose sight of its importance and the huge cost to purchase and maintain it. For you and I as Christians, the connection between spiritual and theological freedom and political liberty is unmistakable. The true roots of freedom are always spiritual and moral. To read the Gospels is to understand the innate role freedom plays in God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. There are so many verses but the one that stands out in my mind is (Gal.5:13,14) that says, "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." What do we need to take from this passage in order to "think Biblically" about freedom?
We have a glorious heritage:
"for you, brethren, have been called to liberty."
True freedom is freedom from the greatest slavery of all: sin. (Jn.8:34;36) exults in this,
"Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin....Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
Beware of a dangerous distortion:
"only use not your liberty as an opportunity for the flesh."
Freedom is easily misunderstood and misused as a license to indulge our sin nature. This is not freedom. When I was in San Jose, CA last week, there was a banner for a 4th of July parade called, "The Rose, White & Blue Parade" celebrating gay pride. There was something disturbing about people's attempts to tie their cause to our nation's founding and purpose, thinking there was some kind of moral equivalency involved.
Answer freedom's call:
"but through love serve one another."
This reminds us that true freedom doesn't just emphasize our "rights" but calls us to responsibility. This is a lesson that is being lost on our "entitlement culture." Love and obedience to God and one another is the true guardian of our precious liberty.
In closing, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's historic, "I Have A Dream" speech kept echoing the refrain, "Let freedom ring!"
That is the precious gift and responsibility given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Happy 4th of July!