Today our nation celebrates independence. It’s good to read through the Declaration of Independence on a day like today. We need to be reminded of what motivated our forebears to risk much.
I like that it begins politely. The signers felt “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” In other words, we respect the historical office of the king enough to tell you why we can no longer be your subjects. The Declaration is then very candid about the grievances.
Would we Christians be so clear-minded about our liberation? It is difficult to leave something behind if we don’t know why we should, as in what harm it causes and what good would come from living differently.
In the spirit of independence, Paul wrote in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” then admonished, “Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Our freedom is found in Christ, but it is not a freedom to do whatever we choose. That, in reality, is a yoke of slavery because we will quickly be consumed by rules that are oppressive rather than freeing by our own desires-which are not always holy-and by the prisons of our society (self-indulgence, fear, greed, etc.).
Paul, freed by Christ, wisely wrote, “13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13-14).
The freest people I know are those who live in joy because they are not afraid of their sins, their death, or of living fully in this life. They are not constrained in their devotion to God and their love of neighbor.
Celebrate today the freedom we have as a nation. Give thanks for those who have helped to earn, grow, and preserve it. Celebrate, too, the freedom we have in Christ, that sin and death does not have the final say. We are freed to live fully rather than fearfully. Give thanks for Christ who gives us that!