When we think of the Fourth of July, it brings up many different images in our heads. Most commonly we think of barbecues, vacation, and fireworks. Though our thoughts also move to notions of freedom, independence and our service men and women. The Fourth of July is an important date in our country’s history because it is the moment we declared our independence.
If you’ve been watching any type of news source or social media, I’m sure you’ve seen all the events leading up to this Independence Day. The Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, lethal injection and more. We’ve also seen horrible acts such as the shootings at Emanuel AME Church and burning of several black churches. We’ve seen a push to remove the Confederate Flag from government buildings, a movement that turned into it being removed from stores and even the General Lee. It has been an interesting lead up to our celebration of Independence Day.
There is a saying that floats around that freedom isn’t free. It isn’t, it requires diligence, perseverance, and most of all patience. Much of what we saw in the events before Independence Day spoke very much to the heart of what our nation is about. The Supreme Court rulings demonstrated an attempt to interpret the Constitution into its ideals of freedom. The coming together of so many people in support of the Emanuel AME Church after their devastating event. The reaction by even retailers to the call for the Confederate Flag to be removed due to what it represents to African Americans. All of this speaks to the heart of what our nation truly is about…FREEDOM.
Freedom also comes with frustration. Frustration that what is happening doesn’t align with your thoughts, opinions, or ideals. Freedom is about having the right to be frustrated, and speaking about that frustration without penalty under law. Many of us have seen the quote from Ben Franklin “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” When I read these words, I don’t think of NSA surveillance or TSA searches at the airport. I think about what makes us feel secure and what makes us feel uncomfortable, then I think of the plight of freedom. The very plight of freedom, is that it will make us feel less comfortable…less secure. I’m uncomfortable with the notion that people can buy AK-47s at the corner gun shop. Someone else feels uncomfortable because a gay individual can now have a legal marriage license. Freedom was never meant to be comfortable, and the fact that it isn’t comfortable gives me comfort.
“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. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:13-14
No matter how uncomfortable the freedom of another makes you, remember that love is the greatest commandment. I am proud to be an American, even though our freedom brings uncomfortableness. I would rather be free than comfortable. My father who served 20 years in the military and fought in Vietnam once told me that I should not hold back my opinion out of fear, nor keep silent on what I think is wrong. He served and fought for me to have the right to speak my mind, and that I should do just that.
As I end this piece, I wish to also say thank you to all the men and women that serve. You help keep our freedoms alive. We wouldn’t still be celebrating Independence Day if it weren’t for brave men and women willing to serve in our armed forces. So again, thank you.
When you are out today, take notice of the freedoms you see things that represent religious ideals, rainbow flags, someone with a firearm on their side, bumper stickers with all manners of freedom written upon them, and even the attire people wear. It doesn’t take long to realize you live in the land of the free, and it is that way because of the brave. Love should always be at the heart of freedom for when love is missing, it becomes oppression.
Happy Independence Day. Please pray for the churches that have been burned, Emanuel AME Church, our country, but also please give thanks today for our freedom.