In Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, few movie lines capture emotional resilience, independence, and courage as well as William Wallace’s one word cry at his death, “Freedom!” Only that’s not how it happened. Sometimes, real history makes for poor drama, but you already knew that (a cool fact of real history: the American colonies and William Wallace both fought against English tyranny a few hundred years apart).
For Christians, celebrating Independence Day tempts us to mix fact and fiction similarly to a movie like Braveheart. As all Americans, Christians can and should celebrate the founding principles of our nation on religious freedom. We can and should reflect on the great cost many have given to gain and maintain that freedom. We can and should rejoice in the prosperity we have been graciously granted with food, fun, and fireworks. But as Christians, we can and should also remember that our nation’s heritage has been pockmarked with black eyes such as driving Native Americans from their homelands and enslaving countless millions for centuries to make money off the backs of their hard labor.
One tyranny replaces another replaces another. And all tyrannies reveal the deep-seated rule of sin in our hearts. Britain’s unjust rule over the colonies, the enslavement of an entire race based on skin color, and immigration injustices today stand alongside the destructive addictions of pornography or opiates, the unimaginable travesty of abortion, and the wasteful patterns of materialism as cruel taskmasters over sinful, chained human hearts. These failures of our forefathers, alongside multitudes of other far-too-easy-to-see flaws, mismanagements, and governmental policies we continue to witness today turns the bold shout of “Freedom!” into the doubtful, questioning whisper, “Freedom?”
But we have the Answer to just such a whispered question. We have the Key unlocking the binding chains of every taskmaster. We have the Heir of the Kingdom who turns slaves, immigrants, and castaways into citizens. His name is Jesus. The freedom He offers never expires.
For freedom Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1
The freedom He grants us to be released from sin is incomparable to the miniscule and fading freedoms of this world. His freedom can never be taken away. Brothers and sisters in Christ in parts of the world with no religious freedom still revel in the joy of having been released from sin’s chains past, present and future.
So if you find yourself singing patriotic songs on July 2 as a part of worship, take a moment to thank God for your independence, nationally and spiritually. When you celebrate around the grill with family and friends, take a moment to rejoice in a heavenly feast awaiting you for eternity. As you watch fireworks exploding light in the night sky, reflect on the One who pierced the darkness permanently over two thousand years ago on the cross. That’s freedom we can always shout about!