In the U.S. we celebrate our independence on July 4th. For Christians, "independence" is a fascinating concept and we should think about it with some care. In order to do so, we need to be cognizant of the two kingdoms in which we live. For the Christian, we certainly enjoy the civil-realm freedom within the left-hand kingdom that is the focus of our Independence Day. We are independent of foreign subjugation. This tremendous reality is easily taken for granted. Recall for example how Israel throughout biblical history was under the thumb of other nations: the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. No wonder they were so eager for a militaristic Messiah (a Messiah of earthly glory and liberation)! In our own history, the tyranny of taxation without representation could not be tolerated. But there have been other threats. The central powers of World War I presented a clear and present danger against the United States. What would have happened if Germany had made an alliance with Mexico? The U.S. had to act if liberty would persist. My father served as a U.S. Marine during World War II in the Pacific Theatre. There was plenty at stake. Pearl Harbor made it very real for us in the U.S. The threats continue in the 21st century. We hear about them daily. For all of these reasons and many more, it is no small thing that we live with civic freedom. To maintain this independence, however, is more than being aware of threats from the outside, there are perhaps even more seriously, the difficulties that come from within. Tocqueville basically warned that with increased laws within, the less freedom would result. The laws of this great land continue to increase. Why? For the perception that "freedom" is misplaced, used improperly, or is in itself divisive. Yes, that's right. For example, the Christian faith has been strong in the history of America. And -- this great faith -- cleaves to an exclusivistic aspect to its gospel: Christ alone
is Savior and Holy Scripture in the Christian tradition is
the Word of God. These teachings cause offense. They just do. These begin to transgress the popular 11th commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant!" Intolerant of what? Well, you name it, except of course the Christian faith. Pluralism is great until you include the Word of Christ. The famous atheistic complaint that religion is the cause of war and division is funny, since there are no irreligious atheists. Every atheist has a theological position and pursues their agenda religiously. What causes war? The actual answer is sin,
which -- ironically -- is an archaic concept to be rejected by enlightened modernists. But there is more to the story from the Christian perspective: if faith is lived out in accord with the realities of the right-hand kingdom (that Christians always live their faith, even -- and sometimes especially -- in the public square), then they are given the God-given ministry to shed salt and light upon this great country. This happens when Christians dig deeper regarding the theme of independence. The Christian version means that we willingly bind ourselves to SERVE others precisely on account of our being set free from sin and death. We are so grateful for our liberation from the chains of sin and the prison of condemnation before God, that our new DESIRE is to love all people. Not some, but all. Christians do this freely and experience the greatest independence that comes from Christ. This means that their mission is to treat all people as loved by God, even if the person they love hates God. Even if the person rejects Jesus, the love of Jesus is still theirs. This the Christian lives in while celebrating both civic and spiritual freedom. As Christians we are now free to show the world -- that inherently struggles and diminishes civic freedom -- that the freedom known in Jesus Christ enables us to love and serve our enemies...so that they are no longer seen as enemies. It is the hope of the Christian that when those who do not follow Christ, they would see a great love and then hear a great gospel...the good news that God is for them in and through Jesus Christ. And then after receiving this gospel, they would with new-born faith in Christ choose to bind themselves to Jesus and in doing so join the mission: to love people because Christ died for all, rose for all, and lives for all today! Yes, let's celebrate our Independence Day this July 4th and pray for all of our leaders, love all of our fellow-citizens, and serve this country to make it a better country...but let us continue the celebration of true freedom even beyond July 4th; it is a celebration that translates into loving all people in the Name of Jesus every single day of the year!
Announcing! I will be on Issues, Etc. on July 4th about my book Faith That Sees Through The Culture. Issues, Etc. has decided to make my book their "Book of the Month!" What an honor! You can access this 1-hour interview via issuesetc.org online and tune in at 3 pm U.S. Central Time.
In Your Service and To Christ's Glory!
Rev. Alfonso "Al" Espinosa, Ph.D.