Every 4th of July in America, we celebrate the anniversary of the day when as a nation we declared the United States to be a sovereign nation, free from our allegiance to England. No longer would we be bound by the laws imposed on us by a government separated from us by an ocean. No longer would we pay taxes that brought us no benefit. No longer would we allow ourselves to be treated as second-class subjects in an empire where all the benefits went to the mother country, and the colonies (of which we were but one) existed only to supply resources and wealth to the wealthy and elite of England.
Through blood and sacrifice, we earned our freedom. And for Americans ever since, freedom and independence have been sacred words. Freedom, independence, the ability to say what we want, think what we want, do what we want, believe what we want.
In our love of freedom and independence though, we who are Christians have I fear forgotten one very important fact. We were not made by our creator to be completely free and independent of each other. We were made to live together in community. Supporting each other, caring for each other, helping each other through the daily struggles of life.
According to the Book of Genesis, when God first created man, God realized that it was not good for man to be alone, so that is why God created the first women. Man and women, living and loving together, would be able to care for the world God had created, and bring forth new life to share the joys of the earth. When Jesus first sent out his disciples, he sent them out in pairs. That way each one would have someone to help them and give them strength as they sought to share the good news of Jesus with the world.
Then there is this passage from the book of Acts:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
(Acts 2:42-47 NRSV)
So often in America, we act as if each one of us can live completely independent, caring only for our own individual wants and desires, forgetting that as Christians, we are called to be in community with each other. No matter how independent we wish to be, there comes times when each of us need to be in fellowship with others. In our struggles, in our sorrows, we need people around us. With others, there is strength, strength to help us in those times when we feel lost and alone. With others, there are people to hold us accountable, to remind us when we fail what it means to be a Christian, and to remind us of the grace of God that offers us mercy and forgiveness. With others, we are better able to carry on the ministries God calls us to perform as faithful followers of Christ. And when we are with others, we are able to reach out to our brothers and sisters when they are in need of our gifts and graces to help them through their own dark times.
As it is with us as individuals, it is also with us as a nation. America cannot live as if it was the only nation on the planet. Each nation of this world is interconnected no matter how hard we might try to believe otherwise. God has created this world for all people, not just Americans, and indeed not just Christians. We are dependent on each other to care for this world we hold in trust.
As we celebrate this Independence Day, let us remember and celebrate how God has also made us dependent on each other. How God wants us to be in community and be dependent one on the other. For in our dependence, God gives us the means to experience community, fellowship, and grace.
In Christ’s service,