Words by Hunter Beless // Images by Sophia Jordan
Oh, the joy of a hot summer day packed full of American sentimentality: seed-spitting contests, burgers sizzling on the grill, copious amounts of Bluebell ice cream, miniature pyromaniacs running around with explosives, and the sound of voices singing, “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” while the sky ignites with fire. In my naiveté as a millennial child of the '80s, my love for my country didn’t extend much further than our annual July Fourth festivities. Though I have always possessed a heartfelt gratitude for our freedom, I didn’t truly understand what that freedom cost until I married a U.S. Army soldier.
“Freedom |ˈfrēdəm| noun: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint: absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government: the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved: the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing).” New Oxford American Dictionary (Second Edition)
While we enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, believers all over the world suffer for their faith. Some are fleeing for their lives. Many have experienced brutality and martyrdom for their willingness to declare Christ in the face of opposition. Most American Christians, myself included, simply cannot fathom the gift we’ve been given in being able to attend church or openly discuss our faith without fear of persecution. But I am (somewhat painstakingly) learning, through my experience as a military spouse, that freedom is not free.
Freedom comes at the cost of missed birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, and bedtime prayers. Many soldiers have given their very lives that we might live free from tyranny and oppression. But the freedom that we possess as Americans, or whatever country you call home, is not ultimate, unlike the freedom we have in Christ: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Though they are weighty, the sacrifices made by our military cannot hold a candle to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us when he lived, died bearing our sin, and rose again to overcome all slavery, all evil, and even death itself.
Regardless of our earthly government, as members of the global body of Christ we should display the freedom we have in him for the lost and dying world to see. For in Christ we are free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2), free from bondage (Luke 4:18) and from our sins (Rev. 1:5). We are free from accusation (Col. 1:22) and from the power of sin (Rom. 6:7). We are free to approach God with confidence (Eph. 3:12). Our ultimate freedom resides not in identification with a particular country or people group, but in the knowledge that in Christ we have been set free from sin and made alive in him (Rom. 6:6–8).
Christians are the freest of all people, no matter where we live! Our challenge is to live freely in a way that points others to the one who sets captives free, makes the blind see, and sets at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18–19). As inscribed at the top of the Liberty Bell, may we “Proclaim liberty throughout the land and the inhabitants thereof” (Lev. 25:10, KJV) that they may see Jesus.
The truth is, we didn’t choose to be born in America. The freedom we experience here is an undeserved opportunity. We are blessed to live in a country that encourages us to live freely, but our ultimate hope is not found in our country. America isn’t the Promised Land.
This Independence Day, as we remember the price that has been paid by our forefathers and defending forces, let us turn our eyes and hearts to the one who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom on Calvary as he cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). When we wave our miniature American flags and fix our eyes on the sky where the rockets red glare, may our freedom celebrations stir within us a longing for our true Promised Land. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20–21). Happy Freedom Day, indeed!
*This article was originally published in Issue No. 6 of Deeply Rooted Magazine.