July 4, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 146
Today is the 4th of July with all the usual celebrations only slightly muted by the pandemic. It is all rooted in our struggle for independence from Great Britain. To refresh my memory, I decided to take a look at that Declaration of 1776, which started it all:
WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.Declaration of 1776
That is the document which could help the world understand why we here in the United States wave our flags, make all sorts of noise, and talk and argue and even fight about what it means to be free. It is safe to say that we do it like no other nation in the world does it. We know what it is to be under the rule of another government and we know what it is to be free from that rule.
It is no wonder we celebrate as we do every 4th of July! The great American experiment is worth celebrating! It is a great accomplishment and there is no question that many around the world envy the freedom upon which this country was founded.
But 245 years later, we STILL are not in agreement about exactly what freedom means, and whether we still actually have the freedom we paid such a high price for almost 250 years ago. Some feel strongly that they are still not free or free enough. It is a craving that runs deep!
While the longing to be free is a deep human need, one has to be careful in this struggle to be free! You can often get just the opposite of freedom when you pursue it in the wrong way.
Just Friday as I was thinking about this, little Maddie came into the office with her mother, Ashley. What happened next helped me think further and deeper about this business of freedom. Maddie had just walked through the door when she spotted the dish of life-savers on Allison’s desk. “Can I have one, Mommy?” Ashley: “No” Maddie: “Why not?” Ashley: “You can when you are older.”
It was such a simple little exchange, but underneath it were some important forces at work, that are at work in all our longings to be free. I’m guessing Maddie wanted to be free – free to have her way, free to eat candy when the mood struck her, free to make her own choices as she felt inclined in the moment. Ashley saw what Maddie could not. Freedom without the proper self-control may well turn out to be no freedom at all.
I still cannot always control my craving for sweets! And when I don’t, the craving for freedom to have what I WANT ends up controlling me and then enslaving me.
What a tricky little problem that is! I want what I want and I don’t want limits on my desires. Moreover, I don’t want anyone else telling me that I can’t have it! Before you know it, that kind of freedom sets you up for enslavement to some pretty nasty masters. Pope Gregory in the 600 called those masters the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. They are: pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.
|PRIDE||So addicted to your love of yourself and your own reputation that you have no room for thinking of others.|
|GREED||Addicted to accumulating stuff.|
|WRATH||The inability to control your anger.|
|ENVY||Addicted to wanting what everyone else has.|
|LUST||Inability to control your passions and desires.|
|GLUTTONY||Uncontrolled cravings for food.|
|SLOTH||Laziness. Uncontrolled addiction to being unproductive.|
Now all of that may seem a bit old fashioned, but it is disturbingly on target in naming and describing the results of unlimited freedom – freedom without responsibility or without the commitment to use your freedom to become like Jesus.
Strangely enough, the pursuit of living in the light and example of Jesus is the very thing that finally sets you free from those so-common deadly sins and addictions. It may sound to you like anything but freedom, but it is in fact, the only thing that will really and truly set you free.
Jesus himself said (Luke 4): The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
And Paul added (Galatians 5): It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
You have been set free by God. You were not destined for those life-draining enslavements. You were made for freedom but not just any freedom and not freedom without responsibility. You were made for God.
John 8:36: So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.