Celebrating independence

Fireworks. I always loved them as a kid, though I seldom got to see any. When I had kids of my own, they became one of our family traditions, at least for a while. We would walk with our neighbors to a nearby park, set up folding chairs, then ooh and aah at the pyrotechnics being shot into the sky at our local high school. Those are warm and happy memories.

This year, though, as we supposedly celebrate American independence, I am burdened by the increasing divisiveness of national politics. Christians have lined up on both sides of the divide with self-righteous fervor, as if we were certain which way Jesus would vote on each candidate or issue.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it is good to live in a country where we enjoy liberty on a number of fronts. It is good to know we can worship openly without fear of arrest. It is good to be grateful for what we otherwise might take for granted. We can remember all these things as we enjoy the “rockets’ red glare.”

But my simple plea is this: let us remember the most important liberty of all. We have been freed, the apostle Paul tells us, from slavery to sin. That’s neither a mere “get out of jail free” card nor a pre-punched ticket to heaven. Our freedom from sin is meant to give us the freedom to obey God here and now in this world, the freedom to love, the freedom to cultivate the character of Jesus.

May this year’s fireworks remind us of the spectacular, explosive power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from the inside out, that makes it possible to show love, humility, and compassion across every social and political divide.

With God, anything is possible.

May your 4th of July be blessed.

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