“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
In 1950s and 1960s America, the equality of humans envisioned by the Declaration of Independence was far from a reality. People of color — blacks, Hispanics, Asians — were discriminated against in many ways, both overt and covert.
Those were turbulent times in America, when 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 weekend, I paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King 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 subjection to another national system, we can also celebrate and make a “Declaration of Dependence to Jesus Christ.”
As Christians, we take our freedom seriously, but also joyously. We celebrate not only as a nation founded on freedom, but also 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 was added to include 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 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 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, Michigan 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 and 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, 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 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.
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.”
The Rev. Dr. Walter T. Richardson is the senior pastor emeritus of the Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, 17201 Southwest 103rd Avenue in Perrine. He is also an adjunct professor of religion at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens.