How Free, Really?
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.”
—1 Peter 2:16 (ESV)
It’s the Fourth of July. A day perhaps of fireworks and parades and speeches. And cookouts, don’t forget those. For many Americans, it’s a day off work, with pay.
The celebrations have been going on every year since 1776, when Congress signed off on the Declaration of Independence. John Adams, in Philadelphia for the convention, wrote home to his wife Abigail, up in Massachusetts, mapping out how he thought the annual celebrations should go. Fireworks, yes — but first things first:
The nation’s freedom anniversary should first be “commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.”
Only then did Adams move on to the noisy stuff: “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
He had a wise sense of priorities. Thank God for freedom — celebrate — but then prepare for the hard work of maintaining it.
He could probably envision the stern Abigail rolling her eyes at this “Games” and “Bonfires.”
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm,” Adams continued, “but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
Freedom isn’t free. As he wrote home, Adams’ beloved America was embarking on a painful, bloody crusade that would take long years and thousands of lives.
Our own freedom in Christ wasn’t free either. Jesus paid a terrible price for it. We can be grateful for it; we can celebrate it with joy. But we must also continue the work of freedom.
The Apostle Paul saw how easy it is to lose this freedom. “Christ has set us free,” he affirmed in Galatians 5:1. But then, a strong warning: “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
In Christ, we’re free from guilt — but free to go back there. In Christ, we’re free from fear, and rage, and superstition, and the list goes on — but always free to go back there. In Christ, we’re free from sin — but free to go back there.
We have to keep “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12). Working on it. Remembering how we received this marvelous gift in the first place — celebrating it, sure; but also maintaining it.
Happy Fourth! Stay safe. In more ways than one.
My prayer this week—Father, guide me by your Spirit to stay free of everything Christ liberated me from.