Independence and Freedom: Thoughts for the 4th of July

As we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence today, we will hear much said and sung about two words: independence and freedom. They seem like cousins and in the political sense maybe they are. However, in our lives they could not be more at odds with one another. Here are a few thoughts as you pop open a Sam Adams.

It may be strange to say, but much of our confusion may stem from the fact that we equate the idea of freedom with that of independence. The clear voice of our Shepherd rattles and shakes in our ears when we do what we Generation X and Millennials do best- we hear what we want to hear. If we want to hear Jesus clearly, we may have to recognize that independence and freedom are radically different concepts.

To be independent is to be self-sufficient, self-governing, or autonomous. We have become independent when we make our own way, call the shots, and run the show. Independence means we can make it on our own without the constant help of another.

Freedom, in stark contrast to independence, is the desire to love and truly trust another. Freedom can only be found when we have come to the end of ourselves and seen the heavy price we have paid for making our own way. We have followed our hearts but seen that they are desperately wicked, just like Jeremiah said.[1] We have followed our own designs only to see that Solomon was wise after all. Our ways have led to death.[2]

Nobody would guess it, but at the moment we realize how stupid, reckless, and hurtful our plans have been, Christ meets us with words of unabashed, unqualified freedom. Freedom with no strings attached.

The Real Tyrant

It is not from King George, the stuff of the world, money, greed, materialism, lust, or gluttony that we need to be freed. It is from ourselves that we need to be freed. We have sat ourselves in the very throne of our own hearts and have worshipped a self-made god who has only brought destruction. We are truly enslaved to ourselves and because of this, we are losing the world, our brother, our sister, and our grip on reality.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian of the cross at the time of the swastika, put it this way, “ Man is a prisoner, a slave of the world, and his rule is illusion.”[3]

It is only the free man who has any inclination to obey God from a true heart. Obedience out of fear is not obedience. Freedom without love is self-focused slavery. Both this false obedience and this illusionary freedom are destroying us even now.

And it is from the wicked tyrant of our selves that Jesus promises freedom.

 

This freedom Jesus talks about over and over again is simply love for God. The other side of the coin is a desire to follow after God’s ways- obedience. Freedom and obedience, then, are both rooted, grounded, and centered in love for God and a belief, however faint at times, that God’s way is best, however he presents it.

 

So as you grill out tonight, thank God that his offer is for Freedom- deep, abiding and true. May we know that today as you surrender our lives to the care of God.


[1] Jeremiah 17:9.

[2] Proverbs 14:12.

[3] Bonhoeffer, D. Creation and Fall. New York: Collier Books. 1959, p. 40.

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