Without Me you can do nothing. -John 15:5. In 1950s and 1960s America, the equality of humans envisioned by the Declaration of Independence was far from reality. People of color — blacks, Hispanics, Asians — were discriminated against in many ways, both overt and covert. Those were turbulent times in America, although racial barriers began to come down due to Supreme Court decisions like Brown v. Board of Education and due to an increase in the activism of blacks fighting for equal rights.
And as we celebrate another Independence Day, I paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and say here we are, decades later, and people of color are still not completely free. Many are still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. Many still live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
But there is a freedom that exists for anyone, whether black or white, male or female. That freedom exists in Christ Jesus.
So, in addition to celebrating the Declaration of Independence from tyranny and subjugation to another national system, we can also celebrate and make a “Declaration of Dependence” on Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we take our freedom seriously but also joyously, so we celebrate not only as a nation founded on freedom but as people who have discovered and want to share the ultimate freedom in Jesus Christ. This freedom in Christ calls us to celebrate it, to share and to live it out each day. It is for freedom that Christ, the true Liberator, has set us free. What does that liberation include?
Well, liberation through Jesus includes the freedom of the Constitution, written in 1787, was amended and the Bill of Rights added to include freedoms like the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom of people to peaceably assemble. Jesus has likewise given his followers freedoms, like freedom of joy, freedom of peace, freedom of salvation.
And not only has the Prince of Peace given us the freedom of wonderful essentials; He has also given His people freedom from. We are free from the oppression of sin and the separation of those things that prevent us from receiving God’s blessings.
Dr. Charles Adams, the senior pastor at Hartford Memorial Church in Detroit, Mich., says that because we have been liberated a “great eschatological freedom has been given to lift us above walls; towering walls, social, racial, cultural, political, economic, academic, ideological walls that separate people from people.”
Because we are free from separation, the walls are down and the doors are open, the highway is clear, the barriers are gone, the restrictions are removed, the shackles are dissolved, the dungeons are shaken and the chains are broken – and there is a new freedom from. Because we are free from separation, we can go anywhere and speak in any language, tackle any problem, face any danger, love anybody and do anything that will bring glory to God and freedom to people.
We can stand in that liberty and freedom and not be tangled up again.
Finally, we are not just free of, and free from, we are also free for. Because Christ has set us free, all things are ours. All people are our people.
All places are our home. And all problems are ours to challenge and solve.
Because Christ has set us free, we are free from loneliness and free for love, free from futility and free for family, free from anxiety and free for activity. And there are no walls of separation, segregation, isolation, castigation, stigmatization, intimidation that can hinder us.
We are free in Christ; yes, free indeed, totally free and totally obligated. We are free and obligated to depend totally on Him, because we can do absolutely nothing without Him.
So, today and tomorrow, we declare, “Christ has set us free” and we depend totally on Him. For, as John 8:36 declares, “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” We decree and declare total dependence on Him. Amen!
*Rev. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net Website: WTRMinistries.com