"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." When Paul wrote these words to Galatian Christians in the 1st century CE, the American Revolution was over 1700 years in the future. The Declaration of Independence was spatially, politically, and temporally the furthest thing from Paul's mind. But for American Christians in the 21st century, the relationship between political independence and spiritual freedom now seems inextricable.
But on this July 4th, we have to remember something: While we are free, we are not independent entities.
As Christians, we proclaim that Christ set us free for freedom. We are not self-liberated individuals. In fact, our liberation belongs to the God who accomplished freedom for us in the person of Jesus. The typical construct of American freedom is freedom from: free from constraints, from tyranny, from obligation.
Divine freedom, true freedom, is freedom for: freedom for justice, freedom for others. Oddly enough, even this freedom doesn't belong to us properly, but comes as a gift of the Holy Spirit who meets us in baptism, who confronts us through the image of God in the people we meet, who stirs up in us a desire for God's kingdom.
Even in our freedom, we remain bound to God. Of course, this God sets us free from sin, death, and the Devil. But God does not end there. God remains with us and offers us a freedom for becoming more and more like Jesus Christ, the one in whose image we all are made.
So tonight as we set off an absurd number of explosive devices, overeat, and talk about America the Beautiful, let's remember that our freedom from British rule pales in comparison to the kind of freedom we receive at the foot of the Cross, freedom for the sake of the world.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.