Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy Independence Day weekend! This week we celebrated in a special way the founding moment of our nation. We think back to the sacrifices of the founding fathers and all those who fought to make America one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We celebrate the gift of freedom we have all benefited from, which so few in our world are blessed to receive. Especially today when so many take so much for granted, we stop to give thanks.
It’s also worthwhile to pause and ask – what is the true source of our freedom? We don’t think about it, but if we believe that we have freedom because the country gives it to us, that means the country has the same ability to take it away. The same trouble arises with the idea of rights: if our nation is the source of civil rights, if it gets to decide what rights we have, it can very easily change its decision and take those rights away.
This is why we as Christians, and for the longest time, we as Americans, believed that these rights were not country-given, but God-given. As children of God, made in His image and likeness with an equal dignity, we have freedom and rights which go above and beyond the state. We have them because we are human beings, not just because we are Americans.
The trouble though, is that if this is the case, then we don’t get to decide what freedom is or what our rights are – God does. The definition of freedom is transformed, and it goes very much counter to how most people think of freedom. Because freedom is generally seen as “freedom from limitation.” I am free, so no one can tell me what to do, or what not to do. But with God, freedom is rather the freedom to do His will and become the good, holy people we are called to be. The ability to do whatever we want, that isn’t freedom, but slavery to our desires. Real freedom is conquering our desires and being able to do God’s will in all things, which brings us success and true happiness.
So when we talk about the right to life, the right to marry, or freedom of speech, we need to remember that these are all meaningless and arbitrary unless they are built on a belief in God and an understanding of who He made us to be. It is according to His laws that we form our own laws, because He is the author of all things and arbiter of what is true and good. On the other hand, if we form our laws in our own image and likeness, an image and likeness tainted with original sin, we will find only desolation. As we are certainly seeing in our time, the further we find ourselves from God, the further we will find ourselves from the truth of what makes a strong and healthy society. Without God, we forget the true meaning of freedom, and find only slavery.
This weekend let’s give thanks to God for the gift of life, the gift of freedom, and the gift of our nation, and let’s pray that as a nation we return to that founding principle of the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
Yours in Christ,