Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. [Romans 6:14 (NLT)]
Tomorrow, as we commemorate our nation’s birthday, the celebration will be a little different. Beaches are closed and the brat fests, chicken roasts, band concerts, parades, fireworks, neighborhood picnics, rodeos, and ice cream socials typical of this national holiday have been cancelled. Friends and family won’t be joining us to light sparklers, have a water balloon fight or baseball game, catch fireflies, eat popsicles and watermelon, or enjoy s’mores around a campfire.
Restrictions because of this pandemic have made some people bristle at their loss of personal freedom and these last few weeks have put a spotlight on both the shortcomings of our nation and the imperfections of our national heroes. Nevertheless, regardless of our nation’s faults and problems, we have an incredible amount of personal freedom. Here, we are free to disagree but, in nations like Syria, Turkmenistan, South Sudan, North Korea, and even our close neighbor Cuba, those demonstrations would never have taken place. There we’d have suppression of political opposition, restrictions on internet use, a one-party political system, government controlled media, prohibitions on worship, and harsh authoritarian rule with even more injustice and inequalities. While we’re far from perfect, we’re better than most!
As thankful as I am for the statesmen and patriots (flawed as they were) who made this great nation a reality, I am even more thankful for Jesus and his small band of Apostles who made it possible for us to live in true freedom! True freedom has more to do with belief in Jesus than it does with a Declaration of Independence or a Bill of Rights. Without Christ we will never truly be free because, no matter where we live or what kind of government we have, we will still be in bondage to sin. The Liberty Bell rang out for our nation’s freedom but it was the cross and an empty tomb that gave us our spiritual freedom. Our nation’s freedom began with its Declaration of Independence 244 years ago; our spiritual freedom came when we accepted Jesus and learned to live in dependence on Him.
We lift up our hearts, O God, on this day of celebration in gratitude for the gift of being Americans. We rejoice with all those who share in the great dream of freedom and dignity for all.
With flags and feasting, with family and friends, we salute those who have sacrificed that we might have the opportunity to bring to fulfillment our many God-given gifts.
As we deny all prejudice a place in our hearts, may we also clearly declare our intention to work for the time when all people, regardless of race, religion, or sex, will be granted equal dignity and worth.
Come, O gracious God, who led your children Israel from slavery, keep us free from all that might hold us in bondage.
Bless our country and join our simple celebration that we may praise you, our Source of freedom, the One in whom we place our trust. [Edward Hays, “A Pilgrim’s Almanac”]