Monday is Independence Day or a day more often called the Fourth of July. This is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. They were declaring their freedom. Early celebrations of this day brought communities together for speeches and patriotic activities but today Independence Day is more commonly seen as a time for vacations and fireworks and a day off work. Often, little thought is given to the freedom that it celebrates.
Freedom. What is your definition of freedom? Freedom from what? Freedom to what? Freedom to do whatever I want? Freedom from foreign rule? Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Freedom from money worries? Freedom from violence? Freedom from addictions? The list could go on and on. For what types of freedom do you yearn in your life?
2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” As Christians, what does freedom mean to us? Is freedom being able to worship however we want? Is freedom of interference from the government in religious life our goal?
Or is true freedom for Christians found in walking more closely with Jesus? When we learn to love as He loved, show mercy as He showed mercy, and bring dignity to those ignored or put down by society as He did, we can find true freedom. The more we know and follow Jesus and His example, the more true freedom we will experience. We can be free of worrying about keeping up with the neighbors. We can be free to live with more simplicity and peace. We can be freed of self-centeredness. We can be free to show love and mercy to others because we recognize them as creations of God. We can trust that God is in charge, even in the midst of a violent and turbulent world.
Recently I had an opportunity to listen to a man from the Ukraine as he described his life. He and his family live in Donetsk in the eastern contested section of Ukraine. Life has been very difficult for him and his family. There is an ongoing fear of violence. Even getting his retirement income from the Ukrainian government is a difficult process because of where he lives. The church building he attended was near the airport and has been destroyed, many of the people from his congregation have fled the region, and those who are left do not feel that it is safe to meet for worship. However, thanks to his friendship with a man from Warrensburg, he occasionally worships with a congregation halfway around the world thanks to Skype. I think he probably has a greater appreciation for freedom than most of us. Even though some of his freedoms have been lost, no one can take away his deep faith and belief. His serenity, gentle spirit, and peace are evident and I saw in him a person who is free in Christ.
Freedom in Christ is not the same as political or economic freedom. In fact, some of the most harshly oppressed people in history have experienced freedom in Christ. Paul advised the saints in Galatia, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). The slavery he referred to was not political freedom. Paul preached a gospel of freedom from the law, freedom from sin. It was a gospel of liberty and liberation. However, some Jews of that day and some Christians today are very threatened by that concept and cling to the legalism and traditions by which they feel they can earn the love of God and salvation. God loves each of us. There is nothing we do to earn that love. The good that we do, the works of righteousness, are our response to that love and not a way to earn it. This brings true freedom.
Do you want to be free? Let’s seek a true freedom in Christ that will give us the peace and liberation that so many want in today’s world. May we celebrate not only the freedom of our country but also the freedom of our souls this weekend.