While many here in America were on holiday over the 4th of July, Joy and I were driving over-the-road. As we were crossing Arizona heading toward California we were able to watch fireworks from many communities at the same time. All around us were blasts in the sky of various colors and shapes. It wasn’t the same as spending time with the family, having a cook out and taking in our community display but it did give me time to reflect. I am not sure how many today realize the importance of the celebration of that weekend. After all the events it commemorates happened so long ago and we seem to have such short memories. It is more many little more than time off work, the official opening of beaches and public pools. I occured to me that some might be interested in the original cost which secured the freedom we enjoy. It is a reminder that freedom isn’t free.
4TH OF JULY, Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of
Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his Ships swept from the seas by the British Navy.
He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t. So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots.
It’s not much to ask for the price they paid.
I am not sure who penned the above but it is a solemn reminder of the servant hood and great sacrifice of some and the far reaching impact of those sacrifices and servant hood for the benefit of many others. It seems to me to that a different attitude prevails today both inside and outside the church. Much of the planning, programs, etc., come across as self serving. “How can we get more bodies into the church doors?” How can an elected official insure his or her hold on the there office and the prestige and perks which go with it as they feign being public servants? The freedoms enjoyed today are largely misused as the focus is on “me.” What do “I” get out of it? The signers of the Declaration of Independence realized the cost of signing that document and securing freedom from the tyranny of King George III. They did so with the full knowledge that those who were freed could use their freedom for good or for evil. For self serving interests or for serving others.
The Apostles Paul and Peter spent a fair amount of time writing about freedom. In Galatians Paul makes two statements which are attention grabbers. In Galatians 5:1 he writes:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Yes, Jesus Christ lived a life that we could not live and gave His perfect life as the ultimate sacrifice in order to secure our freedom. Freedom from the Law and the judgment it brings. Freedom from the bondage of sin. He provided the freedom of peace with God rather than the certain judgment we deserve. But how should that freedom work itself out in the day to day life of those who have been freed?
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)
There are two directions this freedom can be taken. One is harmful for it focuses on the self and takes opportunities “for the flesh.” The other direction is actually more freeing for it focuses on others, “but through love serve one another.” It is freeing because it doesn’t have to take account of what we have done for others and keep track to see if they return to the same degree and thus balance the accounts. It lowers the risk of sexual misbehavior because such actions takes away something from the other individual we cannot possibly return. It violates the trust of others around us and opens us up to accusations from others which render us ineffective in our service to God. Peter says of this:
Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.
As true servants our big questions become “how can I best serve others without expectation of repayment or even acknowledgement” rather than “what’s in it for me?” It also changes how we view leadership and hold them accountable. Those who are truly servant leaders recognize they live in glass houses and everyone around them has Windex. There is very little they do that won’t be public knowledge. We have seen this with recent sex scandals amongst political “servants” as well as pastors. Even our current president promised that all legislation would be posted on the Internet for at least five days for review prior to being voted on. Until voters began standing up on the health care legislation that was not once the case. In fact, they tried to pass the healthcare issue without giving the legislators time to read the 1,300 page document which had been completed in the middle of the night. So far, the big legislation has been voted on within hours of it being sent to the legislators and without benefit of their actually reading it themselves. These sorts of things demonstrate a lack of servant hood and an elevation of self serving decisions.
Whether it is in the political arena or in the church the most powerful life is the one of a servant who is serving because they have the freedom to do so. They can leave at anytime but choose to stay. They can legitimately demand their rights but deliberately choose to not only not exercise them in order to better serve others but don’t even acknowledge them. The supreme example of this is not the founders of this nation, as important as that example is, but the life of our savior, the creator and sustainer of the universe who said in Matthew 20:28:
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
The 4th of July celebration is over for this year but the opportunity to serve presents itself every day. But beware, it will cost.