There are a lot of debates about America. Who does it belong to? Where does it stand in the world? Where is it going?
The 4th of July may only signify one day, but the celebration lasts longer. That’s as it should be, too. Your 4th of July may have started this Monday with a drive to the beach. Perhaps it began yesterday on the 3rd. No matter when, I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasts through the weekend.
Patriotic holidays carry a different tone. They make us remember the sacrifices of others and risks carried out when defeat seemed just as certain, perhaps more probable, than victory. It’s easy to jump on board a cause when granted hindsight. The signers of the Declaration had no such guarantee 243 years ago.
We celebrate that risk they took by getting together with family. You may go to the lake, pool, or ocean. A grill will almost certainly fire up. Fireworks will ignite the hot summer sky as we watch with friends and family. Afterwards, you may continue to hang out with those people a little longer, talking and enjoying each others’ company.
All of that can sound trivial in light of what those early patriots faced. But I think it’s exactly those kinds of things for which they were fighting. More to the point, the ideals upon which the birth of America is founded centers around the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those early signers of the Declaration drew up the language of those rights. Every man and woman in the armed services since then have fought to protect those rights. In the case of ethnic minorities, many served in a time when the “all men are created equal” phrase of the Declaration was far from recognized in practice.
When I think of all this, I’m thankful for those early signers and those who have sacrificed since for my freedom. It naturally takes me to where I consider the freedom found in my relationship with Christ. I love both, but there are times I don’t feel worthy of them. There are times it seems I don’t do enough to show my thankfulness. When I think about it long enough, I begin to wonder if I take both my country as well as my Lord for granted.
Just as we celebrate our nation, we’re also called to celebrate a life of freedom found only in Christ. And while that celebration can be seen in active engagement such as mission work and evangelism, Scripture also reminds us in Micah 6:8 to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Appreciate where God has placed you. Take advantage of the opportunities given to speak His name to others. Simple things like modeling justice, forgiving others, and being humble brings notice to you, but also the One you represent. In a time where biblical principles are ignored and even mocked, stand tall as an rebel for righteousness.
We must understand, though, that going against the flow also makes us a target. Prepare to be challenged. Prepare to risk social standing, friendships, or even that promotion at work. The Declaration signers knew the risks they faced, and they signed anyway.
My 4th of July will probably look a lot like yours. I’ll eat that extra burger I probably shouldn’t. I’ll toss a baseball with my son and try to not knock another tooth out (to be mentioned in a future editorial). Visiting with my in-laws, I’ll sit in a camping chair in the parking lot of College Heights Baptist Church in Glencoe, Alabama and watch their fireworks show.
I’ll remember the sacrifices of the ones who give me the opportunity to do so. I’ll also remember the sacrifice of the One who gives true freedom, the kind that last well past the weekend.