What many of us share together is a great appreciation for the freedom we have here in the United States of America. But, there is a sidebar to the appreciation of the freedom, and it has to do with having respect for the freedom. It is one thing to appreciate it, but quite another to respect it. As I see it, there are several factors to consider for respecting the freedom.
For example, respecting the freedom honors the source of our freedom. The source of our freedom is Almighty God who is the God of Israel and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is quite obvious that the Lord wants people to live free. It becomes a clear observation on this point when one considers what the Lord provided through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the Cross and through His Resurrection. God wanted us to have spiritual freedom. But, He also wants people to live this temporal life in freedom, which is exemplified in His setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage, and the numerous times He set Israel free from slavery to other nations.
The bottom line is that our God is the God of freedom, and is the ultimate source of it. Because this is true, we should have respect for the freedom by respecting the One who supports wholly the concept of it and makes it possible for us to have it here in America. Having respect for the freedom means recognizing the One who is the source of it.
Respecting the freedom regales the history of it. The freedom we are experiencing in the United States started with people who had a vision for it, and were willing to endure hardships to start living it. In their pursuit, they remained true and consistent to the truths and principles inherent with it. They never gave up on the ideal, and they kept on passing the passion for it onto the next generation. They prepared orderly ideas concerning it. They applied personal time in working out necessary details how the freedom could transpire efficiently. They put responsible thought into it. They wrote about it in logical terms for the information of people at large. It is not having respect for the freedom if we undermine or ignore or seek to change the history of it.
Respecting the freedom respects those who served and are serving our nation to keep it on our behalf. Our freedom would be incrementally whittled down over the years by the enduring affects of evil at large and evil men specifically were it not for American men and women serving in our armed forces. Many have died. Many are maimed. Many endured dangers. All gave a portion of their time.
A friend, Davy Beverage, once told me how disappointed he was when he returned from service in Vietnam. At the airport, there were those who spit on him, those who yelled obscenities at him, and those who accused him of certain inhumane acts just because he served. Other veterans told me—-as perhaps some have told you—-of similar experiences. Is it not a great disrespect for the freedom we have if we display maliciousness toward those who sacrificed so much?
Respecting the freedom expects that we give each other the respect of equal consideration regardless of color or ethnicity. Each of us has red blood. Each of us breathe to live. Each of us has similarities in our humanity. If it is true that Jesus Christ died for all—-and He did, you know—-then respect for the freedom is also manifested in our respect for the next person. How dare we to limit the freedom of another? It is wrong, not right.
Respecting the freedom means not abusing the freedom. Just because we are free does not mean we can act any way we please in association with others or necessarily say crudely whatever we want to about others. Good manners and courtesy are a part of respecting the freedom. As so many have said it, freedom comes with the responsibility to conduct ourselves responsibly.
Undoubtedly the date of July 4th inspires us as well as challenges us to respect the freedom.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.