Grandma Lily raised the flag at dawn. It was a huge flag; at least I thought so, when you’re six, most things seem huge. Old Glory hung down between a towering elm tree out front and Grandma’s upper-flat window. She pulled the rope taut raising the flag’s bottom about eight feet off the sidewalk so passersby could walk beneath it. Red, white, and blue buntings already hung from our porches, and small American flags lined the walk to our back door.
By mid-morning, Mother had draped the backyard picnic table with a red and white checked tablecloth and Dad poured charcoal into the grill. Potato salad waited in the refrigerator alongside hamburger patties, hot dogs, dill pickles, and enough lemonade to last a week.
We settled in for a day of fun. First came the bike races that passed on our street, then a family cookout, and finally we set out lawn chairs to watch the fireworks that happened just blocks from home. I loved it when the crowds arrived, parked their cars along our street, and hiked several blocks to the lakefront with their picnic coolers and blankets. It made my neighborhood seem special and important. And when the crowds returned to their cars, we and our neighbors entertained them with our own fireworks displays of sparklers, fountains, and flares.
Even then, I knew that Independence Day meant freedom and that freedom was something to celebrate. My mother’s family had come to the East Coast on the Mayflower, and Dad’s had emigrated to America from Germany. My ancestors worked fervently to attain freedom and suffered in the process. My parents taught me that freedom came at a price and that it was worth it.
As Americans we often take our freedoms for granted. We have freedom of speech. We have freedom to worship. We can attend the church of our choice. We are free to choose how we live, what we say, and how we believe. We all have the right to vote for our leaders and exercise our political freedoms. We do as we please, live the way we want within the law, and can be whomever we want. Freedom is our way of life—the American way.
But, there is another kind of freedom, an even greater kind, that many Americans are sadly unaware of or take for granted— freedom in Christ Jesus. He came to free us from sin by sacrificing Himself for our future. Because of His deep love and desire for us to be free, He gave us the gift of eternal life in heaven. And that, my friend, is worthy of celebration; still there are no flags, parades, picnics, or fireworks to commemorate His heroic act.
Freedom is not something to be taken lightly. We need to be watchful, as Americans that our freedoms are never put in jeopardy and as Christians that we don’t forget Christ’s generous gift and slip into a life of sin.
Paul said it well in his letter to the Galatians: “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.” (Gal 5:1 NIV)
Praise God for freedom this Independence Day! Praise Him for the freedom we enjoy as children of this great country and more importantly as children of the one and only living God.