Freedom. It is not a gift any government benevolently bestows upon its citizens; freedom is the gift of God to everyone created in His image. It is the responsibility of governments to recognize and protect the freedom that is already the birthright of those given life by their Creator.
It’s a blessing to be able to celebrate on July 4th the birthday of a nation “conceived in liberty.” It’s good for us all to think about the nature of freedom. For those of us who bow before Christ as Lord, it’s particularly good to engage in some reflection regarding genuine freedom.
How important is freedom for Christians? So important that the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
Freedom carries with it both deep privilege and deep responsibility. If we twist it into license to be as selfish and self-centered as we wish, how long will we as individuals, as families, as any group, as a nation, as God’s church, still be truly free?
Because it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free,” the apostle proceeds to issue a serious warning: “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In context, St. Paul was warning the Galatians not to allow themselves to be misled by those who trusted in what they could do (and boast about it) rather than in (humbly accepting) what Christ had fully accomplished. A needed warning still!
Freedom is easily lost. Ironically, if we loudly claim our “rights,” all the while allowing most of our relationships to be ripped apart by our own selfishness, meanness, pettiness . . . If we allow ourselves to be enslaved by our own worst attitudes, addictions, and base instincts, we can yell continually about our freedom even as we are the ones throwing it away. No one is free who chooses to live like a slave.
As a Christian, I need to remember the price Christ paid for my freedom with his own blood. If I don’t cherish that gift of love and honor the Giver, I easily become enslaved by my own worst passions. Then, whatever else I am, the one thing I am truly not is free.
And what about my citizenship in America? Oh, my deepest allegiance by far is to Christ as the highest King. Still I think it very true to say that for me a lifetime of love and devotion to America and all that is best about this grand experiment in self-government is not enough even to begin to pay back the debt of gratitude every citizen of this land owes.
We don’t have to be blind to our nation’s flaws; we don’t have to agree with the domestic or foreign policy of a particular administration of government or to have voted for this or that governor or president or particular politician, to begin to pay back that debt. We just need to be immensely thankful to live in a land where the voices of the people are heard—even if we sometimes wish they spoke with deeper wisdom.
We’re free not to acknowledge the gift of freedom. Free not to appreciate it. Free not to cherish it. We’re free to be selfish and self-seeking, ignorant and arrogant, ungrateful and blind, even as we take advantage of what we don’t appreciate. And, at least as long as enough better people still love this land unselfishly, our nation will still be free.
But we won’t be. And the prison of our unhappiness will be one of our own making; our slavery, self-imposed. Freedom must be cherished—or lost.
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Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.