Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.
I was 8 years old when the movie Independence Day was released in theaters. At the time it was all anyone could talk about – the special effects, the story-telling, Will Smith saving the world. And yet, the thing I remember most about seeing the movie back in 1996 was Bill Pullman’s rallying speech as the President and his now infamous line: “Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”
I know for a fact that I, along with every young person in the theater, lifted my fist into the air in patriotic solidarity.
In a few days, Americans across the country will bring out all the red, white, and blue that we can muster and we will fill the sky with fireworks. We will be celebrating our declared independence from the monarch of Britain which inevitably led to the Revolutionary War and the foundation of the United States of America.
The 4th of July is always a spectacle to behold because it encapsulates so much of what America stands for: freedom, fireworks, and food!
And behind all of the three-color-coded outfits, the backyard barbecues, and the displays of pyrotechnical achievements, the 4th is all about strength. It’s all about displaying and rejoicing in our strength in the realms of economy, military, and even freedom itself.
However, on the 4th of July, while many of us will be out in the community celebrating America’s independence, it is important for Christians to remember that our truest independence came long before George Washington and the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence.
Out truest freedom comes from Jesus.
Can we get all dressed up in red, white, and blue this week? Of course – though we should remember and recognize that there is a slippery slope between patriotism and nationalism that often results in xenophobia and violence.
Can we support our military? Or course – though we cannot forget or ignore how America is an imperial power that often uses violence indiscriminately and disproportionately through the world.
Can we kick back and enjoy the fireworks? Or course – though we cannot let them blind us to the injustices that our taking place within, and right on, our borders.
The 4th of July is not the independence day for Christians. It certainly marks the beginning of a new kind of freedom for a nationstate, but the real independence day for Christians took places 2,000 years ago on the cross.
The 4th of July, therefore, does not really belong to Christians. We can participate and enjoy the day as much as everyone else but we do so know that our hopes and dreams have been formed by the Lord, not by a document declaring our freedom from monarchy.
What we experience across the country as we mark a new year in the life of the nation is fun and full of power, but it will never ever compare to the grace of Jesus Christ made manifest in the bread and wine of communion and in the water of baptism.
Americans might bleed red, white, and blue, but Jesus bled for us so that we wouldn’t have to.
The 4th of July is not our independence day. In fact, if it is anything, it is our dependence day. It is our dependence day because it shows how much faith and hope we put in things made by human hands which, to use the psalmist words, can come and go like the wind.
We can absolutely enjoy the 4th of July and rejoice in our celebrations, but if what we do this week is more compelling and life-giving that the Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ then we have a problem.
In Jesus Christ we discover the end of all sacrifices, particularly those demanded by countries of their citizens.
In Jesus Christ we meet the one in whom we live and move such that we can rejoice in the presence of the other without hatred, fear, or even bitterness.
In Jesus Christ we find the incarnate Lord whose resurrection from the dead brought forth a light into this world that outshines all fireworks.