I’m writing this article on July 1, excited about one of my favorite holidays coming up: the Fourth of July. I must admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for all that the July Fourth celebration entails. Barbecue, parades, barbecue, fireworks, getting together with family and friends, oh yes, and we can’t forget the barbecue.
And of course, I don’t want to forget the reason we have the July Fourth celebration. We celebrate our independence and our freedom. This freedom is illustrated for us in the symbol of our flag and the song we sing to honor it:
“Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
“What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
“Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
“O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
“Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Freedom … that powerful idea the USA has helped spread throughout the world. Now we are, and have been, an imperfect nation. Our freedom hasn’t always meant freedom for all, and the symbols of our freedom don’t always warm the hearts of everyone in the world. My question is, “Does America represent the best idea and symbol of freedom?”
Even though I am very proud to be an American, as the song says, America is not my greatest source of pride, nor is the flag my ultimate symbol for freedom. I must point to the symbol of the cross of Jesus Christ as the greatest symbol of freedom for me. For that is where I believe true freedom is found.
It’s interesting when you read the New Testament that Jesus focused on one thing above all else. It’s illustrated in the words of Luke 19:10 (ESV): “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost.”
What does that mean? It means he did not come to deal with all the social and political ills that were widespread in his day. He came to free the hearts of all people from the bondage of sin.
Just one news cycle reminds us of the effects of sin on our world. From wars to domestic violence, from the war on drugs to the way drugs and alcohol destroy homes, the list of how sin ravages our country and world is devastating. From sea to shining sea there is an epidemic of people in slavery to all that sin does.
How did Jesus save us from sin? Jesus Christ was, and is, the son of God ... which means he is God. He came and lived a perfect sinless life and died on the cross for our sins. While this is a difficult concept for our modern minds to grasp, Jesus’ death paid for our sins.
Romans 5:8-9 (ESV) says: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
The blood of Jesus covers our sins. Then he showed his power over sin and death by rising from the dead. John 8:36 (ESV) says it so well: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
I am proud to be an American and recognize the blessings of living in this country. While I’m very thankful for the men and women who have made that freedom possible, the greatest blessing in my life is the true freedom I have found knowing Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Don Thayer is pastor of Grace Church in Salida.