For Freedom’s Sake

If there’s one thing that every American could agree with the nation’s founding fathers on, it would be this: there are certain events in our history that we must commemorate and celebrate together regularly if we are to be a people. Indeed, certain events are so big that they hold the power to unite us, to shape the very foundation and identity of our nation as a whole. Thus, if that identity is to be maintained, that event absolutely MUST be remembered and celebrated continually.

For citizens of the United States of America, the founding fathers rightly identified that event as July 4th, 1776 — also known as Independence Day, the day that America was officially delivered from the cruel and oppressive rule of the King of Great Britain.

This week marks 241 years since that first 4th of July and, though America has never ceased to commemorate the day, many Americans have lost sight of its significance: July 4th 1776 was an event worth commemorating and celebrating not only because of the end of an old identity as a subjugated people, but also, and perhaps even more-so, because of the start of a new identity as a free people. Interestingly, it is those who have failed to reflect upon the significance of this event for our new identity as a nation who have tended to want to relinquish our freedoms.

True Perspective

I want to make clear that this article is not about America or her Independence Day. Rather, like the sage of Proverbs, I’m merely making an observation about life under the sun in order to highlight an important truth about human nature — and that truth in this case is the fact that we, as human beings, NEED an identity to survive and to thrive. Identity is not optional, not merely a want, it is essential to human flourishing. No matter who we are, whether consciously or unconsciously, we have forged an identity for ourselves, a certain set of beliefs that tell us who we are, where we’ve come from, and what our purpose and values are here in this world.

Identity is not optional. Not merely a want. It is essential to human flourishing. Let it be found in Christ.

For all of us, identity is multifaceted. In other words, there are different components that make it up. For example, one facet of my identity is “husband,” another is “father,” yet another is even “American,” but these components of identity are only like the trimmings on a house – the paint colors, the light fixtures, etc. The most important aspect of identity (to continue the analogy), is the foundation, the framework. In other words, just as there must be something bigger and stronger than the paint and the light fixtures, and even the walls, to undergird them, inform them, and hold them up so that they can even have a place in the life of the home, so too must there be a foundation and a framework to our human identity that is big enough to undergird every other facet of who we are and what we do. If there is no such foundation in place, we will be impotent, even perverse versions of ourselves, appearing to others to be as absurd and crazy as someone stringing up light fixtures in an empty lot.

But don’t take my word for it. Just look around you. Our country and the world have never been crazier — and it’s all an identity crisis. I recently read an article about the Southern Baptist Convention’s condemnation of the alt-right movement and I was struck by one quote in particular. The author wrote:

“At the core of the alt-right movement is idolatry—the idol of “whiteness.” In building their identity on shared genetic traits the alt-right divides humanity and leads people away from the only source of true identity: Jesus Christ. The alt-right is anti-gospel because to embrace white identity requires rejecting the Christian identity.”

While I agree with this particular statement wholeheartedly, what actually stood out to me had nothing to do with the alt-right movement, but the theological logic of statement. You see, we could remove the specifics and fill in the blanks with nearly anything, and it would hold just as true:

“At the core of the ________ movement is idolatry—the idol of “________.” In building their identity on _____________________ the _______ divides humanity and leads people away from the only source of true identity: Jesus Christ. The _________ is anti-gospel because to embrace _______ identity requires rejecting the Christian identity.”

Biblical Perspective

Here’s the bottom line: if we build our identity on anything other than our shared possession of the image of God, which has been broken by sin and can only be redeemed and restored by the Lord Jesus Christ, then we will build it on something far weaker and it will not undergird and support us, it will consume us, as all idols do.

I am a husband, and a father, and an American but I am first and foremost a child of God, a citizen of Heaven and because that is the foundation of my identity, it informs my husbandry, my fatherhood and how I live as a citizen of America.

The most important event to commemorate and celebrate regularly is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So, for me, as for all other Christians the most important event to commemorate and celebrate regularly is the life, death, and resurrection of the One who has delivered us from something far greater than any human tyrant – the cruel and oppressive rule of the devil, sin, and death. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, then the truest and most important thing about you is this:

“[God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet 1.3-5

Nations rise and fall, indeed even heaven and earth shall pass away, but the word of God and His kingdom shall be forever. So, I strongly encourage you to take the opportunity to celebrate on this 4th of July, celebrate your freedoms from persecution for your religion, from economic oppression, as well as your freedoms to create, to work, to recreate and to pursue happiness in this great nation. Yet, should those freedoms ever be taken away, as you celebrate, let it all turn your mind toward and stir your heart for an even greater celebration of the One who has given you your true and ultimate freedom, which cannot be lost – the only Good King, who’s reign will never end: The Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, Amen.


Robert Naughton is the Director of Ministry Development for Strategic Renewal and The 6:4 Fellowship. He is the husband to Brie, and father to River, Beau, and Shiloh. He holds a Master of Divinity in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care from Denver Seminary.