For most of us, the Fourth of July means a time of celebrating American independence, barbecues, parades, fireworks, and so on. In fact, just a few hours after I finish writing this post, I’ll be hanging out with family members, eating grilled food, and enjoying watching my children play with their cousins, and we'll end the day with a resounding fireworks show. We are inclined to use this day as a day of thanksgiving to God for his continuing providential provision of freedom for our country for more than 200 years, as well we should. As we reflect on our country in a spirit of patriotism, however, the Fourth of July is also a wonderful occasion to reflect on the freedom and citizenship we have in Christ. This reflection and celebration should trump (no pun intended) any that we give to a country – even the country of which we are citizens.
First, we must remember that the freedom afforded to us by American independence is but a pale shadow of true freedom. In America, we celebrate the reality that, to a large, yet ever diminishing extent, we are free to pursue our own desires in whatever way we see fit. This freedom is certainly beneficial, and I thank God for it. But let us not stop there. Let us reflect on the freedom brought to us by Christ. The Bible describes people in their natural state as slaves to sin (John 8.34, 44). We have no choice but to follow the commands of our sinful nature. Fight as we might, we are bound by its power. The only "freedom" we enjoy as slaves to sin is to mine the depths of our wickedness (Romans 6.20). But in Christ we are set free from such slavery (John 8.36). We no longer have to obey the cruel master of sin, but instead are free to obey Christ.
This freedom is a cosmic miracle, considering that our natural inclination is to remain slaves forever (Romans 3.10-18). Instead of pursuing freedom, by nature we pursue more slavery. Instead of pursuing the knowledge and understanding that leads to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (in the spiritual sense), we are inclined as slaves to pursue all of the things that only increase the cruelty of our slavery and lead to death (Ephesians 2.1-3). Indeed, the fact that this freedom is accessible to us is no less amazing than the dead being brought to life (Ephesians 2.4-5).
Secondly, let us remember on this Independence Day, that we are citizens of another country. Jesus said that his kingdom is not of his world, and so those who would live in it are likewise not of this world (John 18.36). Those who are following Jesus have been transplanted from their home in the world to their home in his kingdom (Colossians 1.13). Our ultimate citizenship is no longer American, but heavenly. In this sense, wherever we are at the current moment, we are not at home - we are strangers until we reach our true home (Ephesians 2.19, Hebrews 11.13, 16). America is just a land that we are visiting. Let's remember this as we light off fireworks tonight.
It is these truths that, to me, will make the hotdogs taste all the better on this Independence Day, and will make the air feel fresher, the fireworks more astounding, and my enjoyment of God's many good gifts all the sweeter.