Did you gleefully anticipate the 4th of July, a treasured holiday and day off from work? I did.
Like me, did you celebrate with family and food, maybe a backyard BBQ or fish fry at the bay? Did you ooh and aah as you looked upward to watch beautiful fireworks light up the night sky, maybe even orchestrated to patriotic music?
Amid these thoughts and celebratory moments, did you ever ask, “What price do I owe for this freedom?”
Independence Day celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 which proclaimed America’s independence from Britain and the tyranny of the King of England.
What prompted such a bold declaration?
You probably recall this rallying cry from your history classes, “No taxation without representation,” but religious liberty also played a major part in the colonists’ battle to gain freedom from the King of England. Britain required loyalty to the Church of England in many ways among the colonies, and the Church of England was supported by the very taxes imposed on the colonists without representation. It took five years of ongoing skirmishes, war and loss of life after the Declaration of Independence before the British army ultimately surrendered at Yorktown. Another six years passed before our U.S. Constitution was adopted.
No, friends, America’s freedom was not free.
As believers, we know that Christ bought and paid for our freedom with His blood on the cross.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)
We stand holy and blameless before God as the result of the ultimate price, paid in full, by His only Son. As Paul teaches in Colossians 1:14-24, God has reconciled us to Him through His Son’s death on the cross. Isn’t that wonderful news!
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
But friends, our freedom as believers in Christ was not free. It was a price far greater than any we could pay, but Jesus could. He did. He fulfilled our payment and reconciled us to our loving Father. And, as we celebrate our freedom each Independence Day, we must remember that this…our religious freedom is still not free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Yes, there is a price to pay for freedom. Each day we must strive to keep our freedom in Christ free as more and more attacks are made against that freedom. Just as Paul teaches in Galatians, we are called to stand firm in our faith, avoid chasing material things of this world and coveting idols of popular culture. We are each a work-in-process, but we accomplish this by:
• understanding our freedom in Christ through the study of God’s word;
• building a strong community of Christ-followers;
• fellowshipping among friends and family willing to sharpen one another and hold each other accountable to God; and
• inviting those around us who may be weary and wandering to experience the same freedom we’ve found in Jesus Christ.
We also must recall God’s lavish grace. Yes, friends, we are called to stand firm in our faith, but we should be the first, not the last, to lace our firm stand with the same grace God lavishes upon us. It’s tempting to subtly layer our own selfish desires and earthly-focused opinions upon this call to stand firm, especially in this culture of division and polarization. But, in celebrating our freedom in Christ and pursuing our call to stand firm, we must always look inward first, making sure we take the log out of our eye before we try to take the log out of our brother’s or sister’s eye. Matthew 7:5
Because of Jesus, our salvation in Christ is always free, but living in a world with the freedom to openly follow Christ is still not free.
Living in the freedom of Christ and standing firm on God’s word, our loving God teaches us the price of this freedom:
“…we are called to be free, but not to use our freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, to serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one commandment,
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
My friends, are you willing to pay?