by Pastor Mark Jordan
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY! I hope you are looking forward to a safe time celebrating freedom with friends and family. For those who are working – and especially those who are working to protect and preserve the freedom we celebrate – THANK YOU!!!
When you think about freedom, and being free from or for something, what comes to mind? We probably have some agreement on the meaning of freedom in general terms, but when it gets down to it, many of us likely view freedom through a very personalized lens. There is nothing wrong with that by any means, but there are definite problems when one’s personal view of liberty does not sync up with another’s. What to do, what to do?
During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln made a brilliant statement about liberty during an address in Baltimore: “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.” (April 18, 1864) Lincoln was on to something. While our nation was in a great struggle about what it means to be free, different people felt differently about what freedom actually meant. No doubt that our context is different today, but we still live in the struggle.
I went back to the Declaration of Independence and was particularly struck by a tension I felt while reading it. It states clearly that we are created by GOD with certain unalienable Rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, the Declaration of Independence mentions that governments are instituted to secure these Rights. Interesting, isn’t it? We acknowledge that GOD creates us equally, and then we turn to government – a vastly imperfect human institution – to secure these Rights. The implication here is that we remain in a state of tension between what we might consider freedom from our personal point of view and what another might consider freedom from his/her point of view, and how these views relate to the view of the masses. Should we abandon the pursuit of freedom? Absolutely not, but we also have to acknowledge the tension that, as President Lincoln said, we do not all mean the same thing when we discuss freedom.
Since our government cannot secure freedom for every single person in the way he/she might like or hope, we have to turn our attention to another source…THE Source. It is critically important to note that even the Declaration of Independence cites GOD as the true source of freedom. In John 8:21-32, as Jesus was teaching about how GOD sent Him to help people believe, the Lord said: “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus later said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If we are looking for God, the source of freedom, then Jesus – the living embodiment of truth – is the Way!
I hope that despite how we feel about things going on in the world we may celebrate our corporate and personal freedom this Independence Day. I also hope that for those who are struggling to fully understand or experience freedom, that we might look to the source of freedom that we truly desire. For as the scripture says, “In Jesus, and through faith in him, we may approach GOD with freedom and confidence.”(Ephesians 3.12)
As we celebrate our national freedom, may we be reminded that the source of freedom isn’t in a piece of paper (as excellent as the Declaration of Independence is) or a government, but in GOD and the One who shows us the way, Jesus Christ!