Well, this Wednesday is July 4th – or what we know as Independence Day. It’s the day that we remember the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s that time of year when we make more of an effort to remember our country asserting’s its freedom from the kingdom of Great Britain.
Suzanne and I used to have four small prints by Norman Rockwell that captured the very essence of what our founders had in mind by such a Declaration of Independence. They’re perhaps Rockwell’s most famous paintings and are called The Four Freedoms.
1.) The First is called Freedom of Speech. It’s a scene of one ordinary man standing up in a great assembly hall with all sorts of folks present. The idea is that in our country, that man has just as much a right to be heard – to speak his mind – as anyone else in the room.
2.) The Second is called, Freedom of Worship. This is a painting of folks praying reverently and freely before God… without fearing for their safety. In much the same way that we have no worries or fears that at any moment, the secret police are going to break into our worship service and cart us off to prison for assembling together.
3.) The Third is called, Freedom from Want. This scene shows what looks like a beautifully prepared Thanksgiving Dinner Table… with all the family present. Ideally, in our country, you can pursue your dreams and calling and sufficiently provide for your family without the fear of having it taken from you unjustly.
4.) The Fourth and Last painting is called, Freedom from Fear. This is a touching picture of a mother and father tucking their children into bed. It brings to mind that the children are being put to bed in the security and love of their home without either the children or the parents riddled with fear.
These four paintings by Rockwell made such an impact that President Roosevelt spoke of them in his State of the Union Address in 1941. In that speech he referred to them as four essential human rights that should be universally protected. He said they should also serve as a reminder of the American motivation of fighting in World War 2. Roosevelt later said, “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.” (from Wikipedia)
And so, let this be a reminder to us that July 4th is more than a day of hotdogs and pool parties and fireworks. (Don’t get me wrong… I love each of these parts of our celebration!) Instead, as we gather for these things, let us do so in remembrance of what our precious American freedoms really mean… and let’s express gratitude to God for them. Because they are really are gifts… and not everyone around the world has them.
I think the desire for human freedom is deep within every person. No one wants to be enslaved and in bondage to other people, governments, ideologies, personal problems, or anything else for that matter. I think that’s one of the reasons a movie like Braveheart spoke to so many people. It was a story primarily about a desire… and consequently a fight… for freedom.
I think one of the reasons we want freedom is because very few folks feel like they really have it. And the Bible confirms that feeling by reminding us that we’re all born into slavery. We’re born into the bondage of a cruel taskmaster called SIN.
And it was in response to that taskmaster… that human condition, that God sent our Lord Jesus Christ… to deliver us from this slavery… just as he delivered Israel from her Egyptian oppressors. This is one of the primary reasons why the Apostle Paul wrote his Letter to the Galatians. It’s often been called the Charter of Christian Freedom. It’s called this because in the pages of this letter, the Apostle reminds us of the freedom that was won for us by Christ.
The Apostle reminds us of the freedom that is ours as children of God. And you could say that our Scripture this morning is the theme not only for the whole book of Galatians, but for the whole of the Christian life…
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
Paul packs an extraordinary amount into this one verse. He shares with us a statement of freedom as well as the implications of that freedom.
We’ll take at what Paul understood that freedom to mean… and what it did not mean… next time.
Grace and Truth,