July is the month our nation thinks about what freedom means. While we celebrated in the usual ways—picnics, fireworks, beach parties—our definitions of freedom can be anything but usual.
For those who have recently relocated to the United States from another country, freedom can mean the ability to find work, provide for a family, worship as desired. For those recently released from prison, freedom can be the ability to eat, watch a movie, exercise, or visit a grocery store when desired.
For the woman in Martina McBride’s song “Independence Day,” the holiday was the day she freed herself from the prison of abuse, at great cost to all: “Let freedom ring, let the white dove sing; Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning; Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong; Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, it’s Independence Day.”
Our national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” is filled with patriotic images throughout the four verses, each one ending with the line, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
But what is freedom for believers in Christ? Galatians 5:13 says, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
Interesting that “freedom” here isn’t about doing whatever you want whenever you want; it isn’t about indulgence, but rather about service and love. Freedom isn’t about me, but about helping others without “me” in the way.
A friend and her family were recently in a car accident in Canada from which they all walked away with relatively minor injuries—banged around, bruised and bloody—but which could have been fatal. The first two people on the scene were firefighters, driving separately, on their way to work. They knew just what to do for this injured and frightened family huddled on the side of the road. Later, medical personnel grabbed purses and computers, found clothing, and helped get the family to the U.S. border so they could return home.
All who helped did so with no thought of themselves. They stepped into rescue, help, soothe, heal, and comfort. Talk about service without self.
As the month of July and its focus on independence and freedom comes to a close, may we consider the real meaning of freedom, and consider the One who sacrificed all for us without thought to his own desires. And may we define freedom the same way: “serve one another humbly in love.”