Here in the United States we will be celebrating the Fourth of July in a couple of days. Two to be exact, although by the sight of firework vendors that appeared in late June and the pre fourth lighting of firecrackers- it seems the fourth expands past just one day. Celebrating freedom and independence from tyranny needs more than one day, right?
I have copy of the Declaration of Independence that I purchased some time ago, I think in Boston, at one of those museum gift shops. It is printed on yellowed, crinkly paper- to look like the original I suppose. Although it is just a copy, the words are the same as the original. Many are probably familiar with the opening line “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary” But, probably most haven’t read all the rest, the complaints against the King of England and his failure to support and offer representation to his subjects living in America. The writers speak of his abuses and his absolute despotism. If you get a chance I suggest you read it through. Then you will really understand why you are shooting off those fireworks. The people had legitimate complaints. But unlike our contemporary culture, they didn’t just post ugly memes on Facebook, they were actually willing to work together and to trust God for the outcome. The last line of the Declaration of Independence reads “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor”. They wanted this freedom so much they were willing to risk all. And as history tells us, many did.
Have you ever wanted freedom that much? That you would do anything to have it? Or have you grown accustomed to following someone else’s rule over you? Maybe its not even a someone, but a something that feels like a tyrant that controls you. Maybe its an addiction, or a health problem, or your anxiety or worries or fears. Maybe its a bad habit you just wish you could break, or a job you wish you could leave but can’t because you fear financial ruin if you did. But, you just stay stuck. It’s easier to stay as you are than risk what freedom might cost.
Two weeks ago, I felt this kind of freedom I’m describing, I didn’t realize how much I had been stuck. But, for the first time in a long time, I just felt this overwhelming sense of what it is like to be free. I was sitting outside on a warm summer evening to watch an outdoor movie. I looked up at the stars and felt the evening breeze across my face. I felt like a kid again. The group gathered were also enjoying the movie and the evening. Although I did not know them and spoke only to my husband, their presence felt comforting, not oppressive. For too long I had surrounded myself with people who made me anxious. I often felt like the walls of the church were closing in on me and I needed to be doing more and acting the way I was expected to act in church.
For those who know me, I’m not bashing any particular church I’ve attended, but just a compiled view of what my own experience with church has been like in the past. Rather than being a place where I could come to find rest and peace, it drove me further into perfectionism- my tyrant of choice. Perfect people do not belong in church- we won’t be perfect until we get to Heaven. What the church should be is a hospital for the wounded, and broken, seeking freedom from their addictions and hurts.
We all seek freedom from the things that hold us captive, that rule over us like a tyrant king. Some try to find it in alcohol or drugs, others through working long hours, hoping they will be too tired to care, or in relationship after relationship seeking affection. We are all looking for the freedom to be who God created us to be. God created us to be a people loved by Him and for Him.
Jesus said it is truth that will set us free. How do we know what truth is so that we will understand what it is that will set us free? Jesus answers “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NIV Bible). He adds a bit later in the same passage “So if the Son sets you free you are freed indeed” (v.36)
Jesus wasn’t just some good moral teacher, but the Son of God who died to set you free from your tyrants of addictions and your longing for love and acceptance. When Jesus spoke these words in John, he was speaking to a group of church people who had sought following the rules as a way to gain freedom. But, rule keeping was never intended to make anyone free, just point to our failure to keep them. Jesus was trying to tell them that when He came, He was going to set people free. There would be no more trying to keep a record book of how many rules you followed or how many sacrifices you brought to the temple to pay for your failures to follow the rules. He was going to pay once for all for all time.
This is freedom. It’s not about controlling people through man- made rules, but about faith in Christ that brings true freedom. This is worth celebrating. Luke records in his gospel that as Jesus taught the parable of the lost coin, He said “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7, NIV). In other words, when someone puts their faith in Christ, Heaven celebrates. They are free now! It doesn’t mention fireworks, but maybe they have some they like to shoot off for the occasion. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is freedom is worth celebrating.
If you do find yourself struggling to walk in freedom even after you are a Christian, you are not alone. It takes time. Maybe you will need to make some changes in your life that won’t be easy, but are necessary for you to experience freedom again. For me, it was a different place to worship and to spend more time reading God’s Word. God Bless -Nancy