Merriam-Webster defines it in multiple ways, but the first two definitions listed say that Freedom is (a.) the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; (b.) liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.
Maybe as Americans we are physically free, but are we really free? I look around - at my own life, at the lives of my friends and family, at the lives of Facebook acquaintances, at people in the news and media - and sometimes all I can see is slavery.
We are enslaved to images, how we should look, what we want the world to think about us, the persona we want to display.
We are enslaved to careers, moving up the ladder, becoming more and more important, gaining respect and authority.
We are enslaved to sex, misusing it and abusing others with it, craving it, perverting it, placing it as the ultimate thing above all other things.
We are enslaved to perfection, the pressure of handling it all, doing everything right, not messing up, keeping everyone happy, giving all of ourselves with nothing in return.
We are enslaved to the approval of others, wanting love and affection at whatever cost, seeking attention, compromising ourselves.
We are enslaved to money, wanting more of it, needing it to feel secure, letting it dictate our actions and our hearts, greedily withholding it from those around us who need it more.
We are enslaved to busyness, drowning out the quiet with endless noise, constantly distracting and entertaining our minds so we don't have to think, don't have to feel.
We are enslaved to food and drink and substances, lacking self-control, turning to these things for comfort and relief, allowing our bodies to be destroyed by what we put into them.
We are enslaved to depression, loneliness, anxiety, fear, heartache, discouragement.
We are enslaved to anger, bitterness, arrogance, impatience, snobbishness, racism.
We are enslaved to laziness, selfishness, ignorance, stagnancy, boredom.
We are enslaved. And America can't free us from this kind of oppression. The Supreme Court can't offer a ruling that will break these restraints that so heavily weigh down on us. The United States government cannot liberate us. We can't free ourselves, and sometimes I'm not even sure we want to be free. Or maybe we just don't know that we aren't free.
But thankfully, the story doesn't have to end on a depressing note of hopelessness. And on this Independence Day weekend, I just wanted to share a little note of encouragement for any who may be seeking that true and lasting and fulfilling freedom.
Maybe you read that list up there and something resonated deep within you, and you knew that you were trapped and held captive by some of those things. There is freedom for you. There was a Savior who was sent "to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners" (Isa 61:1). You in your heavy chains, cry out to God and He will save you from the slavery you find yourself in; He will answer by setting you free (Psalm 118:5)
Or maybe you already know that Savior and have tasted His freedom but you keep allowing yourself to fall back into those old patterns of self. You've tasted and seen that the Lord is good, but you have a hard time believing He can calm your anxiety or remove your addictions or truly fulfill you more than whatever you're currently chasing after and clinging to. There is freedom for you. If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed (John 8:36). It is for freedom that you have been set free, so stand firm and don't let yourself be burdened again by the things that want to enslave your soul and rob you of joy (Gal 5:1). You in your discouragement and weariness, look to the One who loves you and know that there is no longer any condemnation if you are in Christ (Rom 8:1). Let go of what you are holding on to because "the Lord has much more to give you than this" (2 Chron 25:9).
Or maybe you don't think any of those things apply to you because you feel just fine. Maybe you think all this God stuff is foolish nonsense, and you aren't sure why you even wasted the past 5 minutes reading all this (if you even made it this far). Maybe you don't feel enslaved or burdened by a heavy weight at all, and even if you do indulge in some of the things mentioned above, you don't think it's a problem because your conscience isn't disturbed and your life functions just fine. Maybe that is the case now, but there will come a day when you realize that none of those things have ever quite satisfied. None of those things have ever left you feeling content and perfectly happy. There will always be something missing, something lacking, and one day I hope that you will realize your thirst and recognize it for what it really is. It isn't a thirst for more stuff, a hunger for some new human relationship or some new life experience, it isn't something that will be fulfilled by more possessions or more money or more substances or more sex or more political freedom or more rights or more knowledge or more excitement. When you some day recognize that thirst inside you and finally acknowledge that it is always aching for more and never quieted by your efforts to fill it, I hope that you will remember these words: There is freedom for you. There is only one Source who will satisfy you and there is only one way to access Him... surrender.
We surrender to be saved. We surrender our lives of slavery in order to become the recipients of a promise, a promise of true freedom and purpose and contentment, in this life and in the life to come.
So wave your American flag this weekend. Display your patriotism, and be thankful for a country that at least offers us freedom in the limited ways that any earthly kingdom can offer it. But if your soul isn't feeling completely free this weekend, know that there is more, and that freedom you are searching for is found in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.