Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
As a boy growing up in Bradenton, Florida, I have distinct memories of our Independence day celebrations. The 4th of July was often drenched in unrelenting heat and humidity, which made the folksy parades and longwinded speeches by local dignitaries almost unbearable for a small child. Fortunately, the anticipated reward of an evening cookout with family and friends followed by a nighttime spectacle of fireworks was enough for me to persevere parental mandate. Like most kids, the meaning of the holiday was lost on me. But now that I am a little bit older (by a few decades) and somewhat more educated on our nation’s history, I am thankful for those who have sacrificed life and limb to insure liberty and justice for all.
We have benefitted greatly from escaping the sovereign rule of a foreign king without representation. Yet, those who crafted our constitution wisely understood that freedom without clarity would lead us to confusion and chaos. That’s why they instituted subsequent amendments—the first of which to ensure separation of religion and state. Its purpose was to protect our faith from governmental interference. Unfortunately, in recent times, legislators have reinterpreted this foundational freedom to justify removing all images and references pertaining to God from public spaces. Worse, our governmental leaders are now redefining elements of Scripture as hate language without properly investigating the historical context and associated risks and limits as applied to current society. There is a touch of irony in this trend. Our government is violating the First Amendment to protect those who are offended by a particular religious worldview.
So how do we as followers of Jesus navigate these turbulent waters? We don’t need to rant and rave over our government and our society. These are empty words to the spiritually lost. Instead, we need to become more dependent on our God as a community of believers. We need to repent of bowing down to the idol of independence and instead seek dependence on our loving Father who has our best interests in mind. We also need to become more interdependent on one another as the family of God—we can’t do this alone! If we persevere together, the love and grace of the Gospel of Christ will prevail and set the captives free from sin. So as we observe Independence Day this year, let’s give it a proper celebration. When those fireworks light up the darkened skies, let’s give thanks to the Light of the world, to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has won the war against sin’s sovereign rule and has set us free to love and serve him with gladness and singleness of heart. Happy (In)dependence Day!