Today is the Fourth of July in America. A day in which Americans remember their freedom from the rule of Britain. The day when America became the “United States” of America. To commemorate this day, many will blow stuff up, have BBQs, and spend time with family and friends enjoying a day off.
All good things, all graces, and we’d be silly to think living under a dictatorship like many experience around the globe would be a more viable option. Ask those living under the rule of Idi Amin in Uganda during the 70s. They are still recovering from his evil and sadistic rule.
But, I’ll be honest, much of the Fourth of July festivities come off hollow. Not that dominating a bratwurst or a bowl of guacamole doesn’t have its place. Not that watching kids light sparklers and other explosives isn’t a good time. These are not bad in and of themselves.
Yet, I wonder if holidays like the Fourth of July lull us into thinking all is well in the country. All is well in our souls. We celebrate freedom, democracy, friends, family, and everything the United States offers her citizens, while forgetting individuals and communities aren’t playing on the same freedom-field. Many haven’t since Day 1 of America.
So here we are celebrating freedoms, blowing stuff up, and gorging on potato salad and something is amiss. Something feels incomplete. To help reflect on this nagging sense everything isn’t right in America-Land, I ran across a post from Seth Godin, capturing some of my consternation:
“Plenty of people insist on freedom and independence.
More rare and far more effective is to claim responsibility instead.
“I’ve got this,” can go a long way.
That’s it… the louder we claim freedom and independence, the more we’re tempted to move away from the responsibility to uphold these freedoms. We love the idea of freedom and independence, but we despise the idea of responsibility, stewardship, and our neighbors. We like the nameless and fuzzy ideas of freedom and independence as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. If I’m good, does it matter if my neighbor is?
That’s the rub on the Fourth of July. What can I do today and in the coming weeks, months, and years for the good of those who live in this free republic? How can my art and life and time and money not only benefit my inner circle but those who don’t even know my name?
How can I take responsibility for freedom today?
In the Bible, there is profound wisdom for stewarding freedom. Instead of turning freedom into a navel gazing activity, the writer forces us outward. Instead of allowing freedom to terminate on our immediate circle, it should propel us to do the responsible thing:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:13-14
These words from the Bible are written in a different context and time and place. I get it. But at the heart of true freedom is not a turn inward. The heart of true freedom has an outward component. A challenge to take responsibility for freedom and independence by considering who we can love and serve today. Freedom that brings their neighbor into focus.
Today, we’ll shoot off explosives, clink our glasses while enjoying a BBQ and day off, and perhaps take a dip in the pool. All good things and all graces to be thankful for.
But on this holiday, may we consider what our responsibilities are? How can we make art and live lives in a posture of love and service, not selfish gain?
It won’t be easy, but I’m certain our country will be a better place for it... and so will our lives.