I confess to being an occasional ear hustler. I am intrigued with how we connect (or not) through conversation. From a child’s incessant whining for a parent’s attention to the nervous banter between a couple on a first date.
To borrow from the commercial, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.
I was exiting the plane from a recent trip when a traveler said to the flight attendant, “Have a Happy Fourth of July.” The attendant responded with a pleasant “thank you” and that was it. I doubt there will ever be a second encounter between the two of them.
What came to me in that brief encounter were the words of Frederick Douglas who said in a speech “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” ( You see, the flight attendant was African-American and the traveler was not.)
Why did I “go there” with what was likely an innocuous pleasantry? I don’t know. That’s how my mind works. But what happened next I know was the Spirit of God.
July 4, 1776. June 19, 1865.
As I reflected on independence and freedom from tyranny and oppression, I began to consider another sense in which humans experience freedom, regardless of their physical or political circumstances. There’s freedom and then there’s freedom. What does real freedom look like? How is it lived?
The Apostle Paul knew more than a thing or two when it came to freedom and bondage (both literally and figuratively). In the 6th chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome he artfully weaves together culture (its norms and deficiencies) with freedom.
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
The true day of independence, our genuine freedom, happens when we are released from the shackles of sin. Receiving this release allows us to understand and embrace who we are and whose we are through the salvific work of Christ. It is with and through this transformation we are able to understand what freedom really is. For us. For others. For everyone.
Happy independence day!
A p-k (preacher’s kid), Mark is the eighth of nine children born to Reuben and Henrietta Meeks, prolific planters of nearly 30 churches throughout the Central Valley of California. After four decades of teaching, discipling, and ministering, including to the hospitalized and imprisoned, Mark responded to God’s call to pastoral ministry. In addition to degrees in civil engineering and public administration, Mark received his Masters in Theology from Fuller Seminary.