We find ourselves in July at the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776. And so, it would be appropriate that we take note on what that means for our lives as Christians in America. In a past issue of The Lutheran Witness, it was said:
Ever since the Declaration of Independence, America has been centered on the concept and consciousness of the individual and his or her life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. In some cases, it has served us well, especially in our radical aversion from any form of totalitarianism or tyranny. But in other cases, this concept has created an individualism that shuns any kind of community or any sense of communal well-being, including any concern for our neighbor. We are a society that admires the rugged individual, the “self-made” man or woman, the courageous, self-reliant soul who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. At the heart of this is a do-it yourself spirituality. More Americans than ever name Jesus Christ as their Savior, while fewer Americans than ever go to church on a regular basis. Each of us is the judge of our own truth, the master of our own destiny, the god of our own religion.
We talk about independence. You can’t get any more American than that! Without the tenacity of the American colonists, we would continue to be at the mercy of a dictating monarchy. Independence was a good thing for America in that respect. But, for us as Christians, independence can be one of the worst things for us to have. When Christians are independent, it can leave us hopelessly to ourselves, and that’s not good because when we rely on our self-reliance there isn’t any room for anyone else in our lives. Especially God. The simple fact is we are dependent on Jesus. For everything. Hopefully dependent! And this is true not only for us as Christians, but us as Americans.
“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.” Galatians 5:13-14
We like to talk about rights. The problem with the notion of individuals having rights is that possessing rights ends up us demanding for entitlements. Instead of spending life defending one’s rights, we can better spend life ascertaining and then embracing the place that we have been given by God. We as individual Christians know that we don’t need rights. We have Christ. Being proud and thankful for this country is not a bad thing. You should be proud especially this month. Patriotism is not a bad thing. But it shouldn’t be the only thing.
The genie god that we American Christians imagine, who promises to grant us our wishes of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is where Satan wants us to look to, because then the focus is off our God- Our God who doesn’t gloss over the dysfunctional realities of Creation, but instead defeats and restores them by suffering Himself. (Hebrews 2:14-15). For those of us who seek wealth, health, and happiness, God remains good, just, and kind, even when these prayers are denied. The Cross is all the declaration of independence we need!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
Below the Statue of Liberty reads this poem:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Funny, in a way, that’s what our Lord says to us. In the love of Christ, who reveals himself daily in the land of the free, and the home of the brave,
Pastor Aaron Boerst