For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Romans 8: 20, 21

 

On this date, July 4th, the United States of America, the country where I live and the one that birthed and raised me, celebrates freedom. This day is the singular great holiday on the nation’s calendar, and it is generally the occasion for a massive and hopefully unifying party. I do think that freedom is worth celebrating and also that the freedoms that are considered to be fundamental to the national character of the United States are truly worthy of a vast and universal party. We should gather at the hearts of our communities, play festive music, remember those who have sacrificed in order to secure our world and this nation, and light up the sky with fireworks. Freedom is more than a worthy reason for all of this. Still, I think that there is a freedom that is greater than all that we are celebrating today, and it is something that we certainly should consider as we put on our party clothes and sing out our national hymns.

 

The need for freedom comes about because of its absence, its loss. When God made this world He made it and us free. We had an almost unfettered ability to make choices and to enter into our roles as the rulers of our daily life on earth. God did provide guidance and law, He was directly involved with us on an ongoing basis, and people were granted responsibility and were given freedom that was in balance with it. We know the story. This freedom was taken to extremes and the responsibility to follow God’s will and to reverence Him above all else was set aside with catastrophic results. So, we live in a world where everything is distorted and corrupted and wherein it is hard to find the sort of true freedom that God designed and intended from the beginning of our world’s history.

 

This country does set out concepts and ideas that move in the direction of the form of freedom that God desires for people and for His creation to enjoy. Yet, I do wonder if we don’t get some of it wrong or at least in the wrong order. The greatness in this nation is found in its world-embracing diversity and by virtue of the gift of resources that allow for this soil to enfold people who come with nothing and grant them the opportunity to develop and to become contributors to the well being of others. This is a nation where humanity’s great conversations can take place in an open and protected environment in which understanding is the objective. We can meet and share our faith, our understanding of the nature and the person of God, our views on the makeup and function of family, how we care for this planet, and the best way to establish peace upon its surface and among its people. The ability to enter into these and many other discussions, both large and small, is a part of the freedom that God has granted to us here.

 

The glory of God is seen in our love for others and in our openness to hearing their stories and to caring for them. There is no greater freedom than what is found in the ability to set aside fears and to embrace God’s desire for reconciliation among peoples who have become separated by the human-derived barriers of this broken world. This sort of thing is the foundational greatness that can set the United States apart in our world. This nation has great resources, and I would pray that we would learn to use them to care for people who are in need. This nation grants many freedoms, and I desire to see us tender them to multitudes in order to narrow the gaps of understanding and mistrust that are prevalent in our world today. There is much to celebrate here today, and as we do this, I do sincerely pray that the glory that fills our sky will be that of the Lord as His desire and will for people to enjoy true and eternal freedom becomes the hymn of our nation.

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And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals,

for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and nation,

and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5: 8-10

 

Contained within these few words and short song that is tucked into the early chapters of John’s prophetic vision about what is to come are words of real encouragement and also valuable direction for the way that we should be thinking and acting today. I admit that most of what is stated in The Revelation of Jesus Christ is mysterious. In fact, I believe that God made it that way deliberately so that we would stay living in the here and now and not just decide that we would focus our attention on the promise of the Lord’s return and the end of all that is miserable and lost in our world. Additionally, we are called by Christ to respond to Him and to His supreme sacrifice on our account by following Him and going into all of the world and by seeking to make disciples of everyone that we encounter there.

 

This idea can be very difficult in our times and in our current world condition. There are too many enemies out there. There is so very much anger and hatred and pain to confront. No one is insulated from it, and all of us are impacted by the multitude of ways that people can find to maim, marginalize, and oppress others. Angry ideologies and theologies are commonplace in our discourse. It is hard to encounter much in the way of genuine compassion, care, mercy, and love that is lived out in our communities. Unfortunately, the loveless communities of our world include far too many of our faith-based gatherings. Still, Christ tells us that His blood was spilled in order to purchase the freedom of people from “Every tribe and language and nation.” Christ’s language is that of inclusion. It speaks of a totality that eliminates the differences that have come as a result of sin.

 

It seems to me that as we seek to follow Christ we need to stop speaking in a nationalistic and racially or even a religiously prejudiced voice. The events that are occurring in our world should not change this. In fact, when evil strikes, people who know Christ need to respond with fearless love that seeks out the lost and the marginalized in our society and that at least presents the truth of God’s unending love for all people to them. This means that we walk through life with people who make us uncomfortable. Christ calls us to enter into life with people who are truly “the others”. These are people who think differently than us, who believe in a god that is not the same as ours, who dress and speak in ways that are strange to us, and who often are fearful of us and of our intent. Our journey through life would then follow the same sort of path that Jesus walked. This starts with our prayers. I think that these are the same ones that are being poured out in this psalm of healing and reconciliation. We can fill those golden bowls with prayers for all of the people in our world who make us angry, fearful, and uncomfortable. Then we need to reach out the hand of loving fellowship and peace to everyone we meet. In doing this we join with Christ in bringing true love to a lost world.