Fireworks explode in the sky, a multitude of colors bursting forth, creating a beautiful display. We sit next to loved ones in awe of the power, beauty, and the spectacle of what we’re seeing. It’s a time to celebrate and remember how lucky we are to be so blessed.
Okay, but what are we even celebrating?
July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies declared Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. In a deeper sense, they declared our freedom from the Kingdom. This day in history declared to the world that we were free, and on every July 4 we remember and celebrate American freedom.
Today, Americans are divided and experiencing hostility. There are issues that are being debated and, in most cases, have been contentious to talk about. The flag, the anthem, and the pledge of allegiance have topics of countless discussions and debates. Right now, freedom for all Americans is not a simple conversation.
So, what are the aspects of true American freedom? Also, is there something greater than American freedom?
Being born in the United States of America is a privilege that we often neglect and/or dismiss, but when we contemplate freedom in other countries, we soon realize we are much better off here than most places. Yes, the U.S. is flawed in many, many ways but those flaws don’t negate the freedoms we enjoy today. But, even though we have freedom in the U.S., are we all externally and fully free?
After reading the four kinds of freedom by John Piper, I came up with the four kinds of freedom in the United States:
You are externally and fully free when you have (1) the desire, (2) the opportunity, and (3) the ability (4) to do something that will benefit others and pursue your dreams.
All people grow up with the desire to do something, so that’s a freedom that we’re born with (ex. “The American Dream). The second kind of freedom, opportunity, is not the same for everyone, but everyone has some level of opportunity in the United States. Depending on the opportunities that one has, a person’s ability can vary. The more opportunity, the more abilities one can have (and vice versa). So, if someone has the desire, opportunity, and ability, they can pursue something to benefit others and their dreams.
Now, knowing that, let’s answer the question above: we are not all fully free in the United States. I’ll explain.
Does everyone have the desire to accomplish something? Yes. Simple. Does everyone have the same opportunity to follow through on the desire? No. There is inequality in opportunities across people groups, class, geography, and gender. There is not equal opportunity in education, job availability, financial earning, housing, etc. This not opinion. This is fact. Does everyone have the abilities to follow through on that desire? No. If you’re not given proper opportunities to prepare for your desire then you will fall short of the abilities required. Now, after all that, do we all have the chance to benefit others and pursue our dreams? Sort of, but not equally. We can still do good for others and find joy in your work, but if your desire is undermined by your opportunities and abilities, it’s difficult to be fully free to give to the world in a way that aligned with your dreams.
Knowing all this, are we all externally and fully free? No. But, we’ve been slowly moving toward external freedom. Not perfect or total freedom, but earthly freedom is the direction we’re moving towards.
God offers us something that America – and the whole world – cannot: internal and everlasting freedom.
Similarly to American freedom, the freedom that God offers is a privilege. The freedom that God gives – not an earned freedom – is the greatest and most humbling freedom that we can fathom. Unlike the freedom that we celebrate today in America, God’s freedom given to us is unchanging and unending. His freedom is internal and everlasting.
To properly present John Piper’s four kinds of freedom, he says that complete freedom from God can be defined as:
“You are fully free — completely free, free indeed — when you have the (1) desire, (2) the ability, (3) and the opportunity to do (4)… what will leave you no regrets forever.”
The Bible tells us that without faith in Christ, no one has the desire to obey God (Rom 3:23, Heb 11:6, John 3:19-21). We don’t want to obey him, so we don’t honor Him. The Bible also says we don’t have the ability to obey God because we’re slaves of sin (John 6:44, 1 Cor 2:14, Rom 6:17-18). We are unable to obey and please God because we naturally rebel against Him. Once God reveals Himself to us and we obtain faith in Christ, we seek to please God in the opportunities in our lives. Once we want to please God and are able to please Him in our good works, we eagerly look for chances to share the freedom God gave us. If we have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to obey God, we do things that leave us no regrets forever. These “things” honor God and give us joy to do them.
Now, is the freedom that God gives internal and everlasting? Yes. Unlike American freedom, heavenly freedom is perfect and total! God’s freedom from the bondage of sin is not progressing, it’s complete and instant freedom.
To be clear, the freedom we enjoy in the U.S. is a blessing! We should celebrate America’s Independence Day with great joy. As we celebrate today, let’s also remember that the freedom we celebrate needs to be spread for all to externally and fully experienced by everyone.
Fourth of July is a great day to remember our freedom, so let’s celebrate the freedom we enjoy in the United States and praise God for the freedom He gives to His children. The freedom in Christ is complete, perfect, unchanging and unending.
Let’s remember and celebrate a greater freedom: the freedom given by the God of the universe.