“My country, ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing: Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride, From every mountainside Let freedom ring!” So penned Samuel F. Smith in the 19th century as he reflected upon the origins of a nation still young and fresh and still near to its roots in God’s gracious providence.
Let freedom ring! May this anthem swell again in our hearts and be proclaimed upon our lips until the sweet refrain of liberty is achieved for all men and women everywhere! Is this too much to ask for every American? I think not. Is it too much to ask for any man or woman anywhere in the world? I truly hope that we would never sell any human being so short as to think he or she was not entitled to freely be all that God would make him or her, no matter how different from us or far removed from us he or she may live.
Just think! As surely as our nation was once under the power of an oppressive government, so were we all once oppressed under the iron fist of sin and death. But “… just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:19b-23 ESV).
And so we have given to us through Jesus a great “Declaration of Independence” from sin and self, sealed through the shedding of His blood on the cross. “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!… There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 7:24-25a, 8:1-9a ESV).
It has been said that it is difficult to define what it means to be American. Yet I believe it is clear that the common thread that binds all Americans everywhere is the liberty we celebrate. While we struggle at times to define even what it means to be free, let us each concur that he who does not know how to spend his freedom nobly is not truly free at all. “What sort of persons ought we to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness?” (from 2 Peter 3:11).
In like manner, let us who call upon the name of Jesus and consider ourselves to be free, follow in every way the leading of the Savior. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 34-36 ESV).
Perhaps you spend Independence Day reflecting deeply on your identity as an American and the entitlement of fellow human beings across the globe to freedom. Be careful to not neglect the need to consider whether you are still in bondage to sin and death. If you are not already so, seek to be set free into God’s life and peace and become the new creation He has had in mind all along.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)