(By Rachel Joyce)
The gentle evening breeze stirred the tree branches and made music with the neighbor’s wind chimes as I sat in our backyard preparing to write. I drank in the beauty of our fully blooming roses and cascading flower baskets, the glow of our string lights above me, and began (as I always do before I write) to pray for God to give me the words. Independence Day was coming, we needed a freedom post.
Suddenly, the peace of the evening was pierced by a willful little voice from the next yard shrieking, “I don’t want to do what I’m supposed to do! I want to do what I want to do!” Ah, the age-old problem. We all want to be free to do what we want to do. The problem is that sometimes what we want and what we actually need are two different things. Although the boy didn’t want to pick up his toys and go to bed, his dad knew he needed the rest—thus the struggle.
Freedom is defined in dictionary.com as the quality or state of being free…the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action..liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another…independence. The desire for freedom, for the right to choose, is part of who we are as humans. God, Himself, values freedom. When He created Eden’s paradise for Adam and Eve, He warned them not to eat the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it would bring them death, but He allowed them the freedom to choose life-sustaining obedience or defiance which would bring an end to the intimacy and blissful life they enjoyed with God. Exercising their freedom, they chose to sin, unaware that with this one act, they were selling themselves and their descendants into slavery to sin. In wanting to be free, they became slaves, and we along with them.
Our slavery to sin is why Jesus came. Because He loves us and wants us with Him, Jesus offered Himself as our substitute and died the death we deserved (Galatians 2:20, John 17:24). By bearing our sins and suffering our punishment, He made it possible for us to be set free us from sin’s slavery. Paul wrote, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ [when we trusted Him as Savior] so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin” (Rom 6:6). When we trust Jesus, our chains of sin are broken, but it is by faith that we begin to walk in the freedom He has granted us. As we spend time with Him and enjoy His presence, we find that the desires of our heart change. His presence becomes our passion. Sharing the good news about Him gives us joy. We long to please Him and be like Him.
Paul warned the Galatian believers, "So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free” (Gal 5:1). We were saved by grace through faith and it is through faith and grace that we are able to stay free (Eph 2:8, Col 2:6, Gal 3:11). Our freedom came at a great price and we must guard against anything that would keep us from living the full, free, abundant life that Jesus died to provide.
The freedom of our nation came at a great price, too. Listen to the words of U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall’s prayer on July 3, 1947:
God of our Fathers, whose Almighty hand hath made and preserved our Nation, grant that our people may understand what it is they celebrate tomorrow. May they remember how bitterly our freedom was won, the down payment that was made for it, the installments that have been made since this Republic was born, and the price that must be paid for our liberty…May freedom be seen not as the right to do as we please but as the opportunity to please to do what is right. May it be ever understood that our liberty is under God and can be found nowhere else. May our faith be something that is not merely stamped upon our coins, but expressed in our lives. Let us, as a nation, be not afraid of standing alone for the rights of men, since we were born that way, as the only nation on earth that came into being 'for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith’…We know that we shall be true to the Pilgrim dream when we are true to the God they worshiped. To the extent that America honors Thee, wilt Thou bless America, and keep her true as Thou hast kept her free, and make her good as Thou hast made her rich. Amen. (Marshall, P., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1997). The Senate prayers of Peter Marshall. Sandwich, MA: Chapman Billies).
On this our Independence Day, may we remember the great cost of our freedom. May we choose to define freedom, not just as the right to do whatever we want, but as the privilege of delighting to do what is right. May we, as a nation, understand that real liberty is only possible under God. And may we honor Him and live for His glory because this is the path of true freedom.