This week we’ll fire up the barbeques, grab the beach towels, and get ready for a day of celebration capped off with the best fireworks display we can locate in our area. The 4th of July is a day that businesses often close, workers get the day off, and families and friends gather for a time of good food and good fun. It’s a national holiday only celebrated in the United States of America—the home of the free!
For those who remember their history lesson, on July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence from English tyranny was adopted by the Continental Congress and the thirteen colonies that comprised America were now free to set up their own laws to govern the people and ensure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Freedom came at a high price—paid in blood—the blood of 8000 Americans who died in combat, another 17,000 who died from war-related diseases and thousands more wounded and maimed for life. Brave men who were willing to give their life so that you and I could be free to live our life the way we choose, within the restraints of the laws of man and God.
Those of us who know the Lord as our Savior also enjoy another type of freedom also paid for in blood—of only one man—Jesus Christ. I love how The Message translation describes in Colossians 1:20-23 our freedom as Christians:
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted, or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one.
Then in 1 Peter 2:13-17, The Message, Peter tells us how to live as both free citizens and free Christians:
Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
I don’t know about you, but with the recent decisions of the Supreme Court regarding marriage and a liberal president, I’m convicted by that last sentence: “Respect the government.” How can I respect a government that violates what I know to be true and right according to God and His Word? Their decisions and actions frustrate and anger me; and as a free citizen, I have the right to have those feelings and even express them publicly. There are countries today where criticizing the government—even in jest or in passing—can result in imprisonment and punishment.
This 4th of July, I will celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the United States in gratitude and memory for those who laid down their life for that freedom. I will respect the law of the land, even when I don’t agree with it, but will exercise my freedom to vote for government officials who respect the laws of God.
The greater celebration, however, was Sunday morning at church when I took communion with my church family in remembrance of Christ who died to free me from the grip of sin and death. Now we’re talking freedom—free indeed!