Posts tagged ‘July 4’

Freedom and Limits

Happy 246th birthday, America.

On this date in 1776, these United States were formed when the Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. At the heart of the Declaration was a yearning to be free:

That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; 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.

Freedom is the bedrock of the American experiment. But freedom is also funny. Freedom is a precious gift – one that I believe ought to be granted to all people everywhere – and yet, freedom also works best when it is given limits. If you don’t believe me, ask Adam and Eve.

God gave history’s first couple tremendous freedom:

“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” (Genesis 2:16)

But on their freedom, He also placed a limit:

“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17)

When Adam and Eve transgressed this limit, rather than gaining freedom, they lost freedom, for they became slaves to sin and cursed by death.

In order to be freed from this slavery and curse, a perfectly free God placed limits on Himself as He became incarnate in Christ. As the French Catholic philosopher Emmanuel Falque explains in The Metamorphosis of Finitude:

What makes Christianity is not solely the extraordinary in Christ’s revelation of His glory … It is also and indeed primarily the sharing by the Word incarnate of our most ordinary human condition independent of sin (that is, human finitude and the humanization of the divine).

The phrase “human finitude” is one of the most ponderous mysteries of our faith. In Christ, the infinite became finite. The perfectly free limited Himself for you and for me. And yet, in the apostle Paul’s telling, this finitude and limitedness becomes the basis for true freedom – our freedom:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)

As we rightfully celebrate our freedoms today, let us remember that our national freedom was won by men and women who willingly gave up their freedoms as they served and sacrificed for this nation. There would be no land of the free if we were not also the home of the brave. And, as we live out of our freedom in Christ, let us also remember that our eternal freedom was won by a man who willingly gave up His freedom as He served us and sacrificed His life for us on a cross.

July 4, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

A More Perfect Union

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Credit: Snapwire / Pexels

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union… 

These words, from the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, have inspired millions over the past 232 years. But as we celebrated our nation’s independence two days ago, they’re also cause for reflection.

A more perfect union…

It certainly doesn’t feel more perfect. We have a political system that is broken. We have a pandemic that is raging. We have nagging questions about racism that are perplexing. And we have plenty of anger and distrust that is disheartening. 2020 does not seem to be the year to talk about a more perfect union. Just last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a poll on Americans’ satisfaction level with how things are going in our nation. The results seem to indicate that most people think our union is becoming “less perfect” rather than “more perfect.”

Moreover, this same survey found that only 17% of respondents feel proud of the state of our nation, while 71% feel angry and 66% feel fearful.

Our dream of a “more perfect union” seems to be dimming.

Of course, a “more perfect union” has always been framed as a receding goal. The founders wisely realized that though human beings might desire perfection, they can never achieve it. They may work toward “a more perfect union,” but they can never arrive at simply “a perfect union.” Human aspiration is always thwarted by human depravity. The very people who can dream of perfection are too sinful and broken to achieve it.

This is why, ultimately, our hope for perfection cannot be found in something that we form, but in what Christ gives. If we desire perfection, we must fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

This does not mean that the Constitution’s aspiration is a bad one. Quite the contrary: it is a very noble and good one. But it is also a convicting one. There is still plenty of work yet to be done in our union even as there is much to be thankful for about our union, which is what Independence Day is all about. Our union may have plenty of room to grow, but our union is also free. For this, we can – and should – be thankful. We should also be thankful that even if our union is not perfect, Christ is. And ultimately, our union with Him is what matters most.

If we have been united with Christ in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. (Romans 6:5)

July 6, 2020 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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