“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” – Galatians 5:13
This week we celebrate Independence Day. In our family, the celebration of the 4th of July has shifted over the years. When our daughter Leah was young we would venture to a local park for evening fireworks. As Leah moved into adulthood it became more about gathering family and friends for a BBQ. Now with young grandchildren who are all above celebrating holidays, the house is decorated, we have a BBQ with family and friends, make s’mores after dark, light sparklers, and sit on our front lawn and cheer the marvelous display of township fireworks.
In this month when we celebrate the birth of a nation, the gifts of freedom and liberty that Americans hold dear, I consider the daily news reports and think about those people who don’t experience freedom. Children separated from their parents, being held as prisoners because of immigration issues, people beaten or killed because they claim the name of Christ, children and adults held captive by trauma due to abuse, those living in the generational cycle of poverty, and those enslaved by addiction.
I’ve been reflecting on the 13th verse from Galatians 5: we were called to freedom… not as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. In the Bible, people are made free for a specific purpose: to serve God and one another.
What does all this have to do with July 4th? It seems to me that when America gets it right, we tap into the Biblical view of freedom. We see our political and social freedoms as responsibilities. Freedoms are not for us to abuse, nor does freedom exist so that we can do whatever we want. Instead, freedom provides opportunity to serve. Freedom is for a purpose.
When the Bible says we are free, it means that we are free to serve God and God’s vision. This year I will celebrate the 4th of July through a different lens as I think about what is means to serve God and to serve one another. How can I serve those who don’t experience freedom, who are bound by burdens? Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” It is my responsibility to leverage the freedom I have to help others live in freedom.
This year how will you celebrate the 4th of July? God has called us to freedom, that through love we become slaves (servants) to one another.