Civic holidays are arguably the most popular in our culture, so it is difficult for Christians to participate in them without falling prey to the ways of the world. For instance, the holiday season of Christmas is utterly saturated with consumerism. We (as a whole) tend to be more concerned about buying the newest gadget or toy than reflecting on God’s humble birth!
The same is also true for cultural holidays like July 4th. We might feel an appreciation for things like freedom, rights, and national history… But how do we celebrate days like today without idolizing human creations like a country, flag, or heritage?
One thing to keep in mind about July 4th is that being a Christian and being an American can sometimes be two completely different things. For example, our society often defines the “American dream” in materialistic terms, such as making more money than your parents, buying a house, getting a nice car, and so on. While it is not inherently bad to own things, this directly contrasts with biblical warnings against greed and selfishness. Instead of being so attached to money and personal prosperity, Jesus himself calls us to give our whole allegiance to God’s kingdom. Indeed the kingdom of God is remarkably different from the kingdoms of this world!
The same difference is also apparent with how we define the word “freedom”–such a popular word this time of summer. Our world thinks freedom is one of the highest ideals, and in many cases, worth dying for. We usually understand it to mean the ability to do whatever we want and to create the kind of life we desire. But in a Christian sense, freedom itself means something radically different than 21st century America would have you believe. Consider Paul’s words on freedom from Galatians 5:
13 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
A couple of points to highlight…
- The most important freedom we could ever have is from Jesus Christ. He gives us freedom from sin and death. All other freedoms in this world pale in comparison to what Jesus did for us!
- Because we have Godly freedom, we should never use that freedom to do whatever we want or even define ourselves. We humans tend to believe freedom is “indulging the flesh”–saying, doing, or acting however we want.
- We should always use our freedom to serve others. Christian freedom actually means Christian service. We serve and love others with our newfound blessing in God’s kingdom.
On this July 4th holiday, you might be tempted to worship the freedoms we have in our culture today. And yes, it is absolutely wonderful to be able to speak your mind, practice your faith, and participate in society. And it also is fine to enjoy a cookout or watch some fireworks (although, if you have pet dogs and cats like I do, they will probably think the world is about to end!).
But in the broader sense, we need to keep all those other freedoms in their proper place. The freedom that truly matters most was given to us 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ gave himself up for us on the cross. And regardless of whatever kind of freedom you celebrate today, make sure to use that to serve and love other people.