In 1776, the founding fathers of our country “solemnly publish[ed] and declare[d], that these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States […] and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” (Declaration of Independence)
Likewise, as Christians, we can declare, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, ESV).
We who were once “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), “slaves of sin” (Romans 6:20), “slaves to various passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3), in “darkness” and under the “power of Satan” (Acts 26:18) have been set free. We are no longer slaves. We are no longer living under oppression. We are free, and we have freedom to do all acts and things which free people are free to do.
But there is one thing we must be very careful of.
“You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:13-15, ESV)
Free people are free to disagree. Free people are free to speak their opinions. Free people are free to pursue their desires.
Free people are not free to hurt others.
The Bible has a lot to say about that. The whole law is summed up in loving God and loving people. Not just “all those people out there.” Real people. The ones who disagree with you. The ones who speak their opinion. The ones who desire something different than what you desire. And especially the ones who share your name – the name of Christ.
We’re not alone in our freedom. We are free together.
The founding fathers understood this. It’s why they concluded the Declaration of Independence by stating: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
With whom are you sharing your life, your fortune, and your honor? For whom are you willing to sacrifice your life, your fortune, and your honor?
In other words, who is your neighbor?
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