After three days of feeling ill, I had finally reached a point where I had to stop. I knew that I was not 100%, but I had a part in the worship service and taught a Sunday School class. I needed to be at church on Sunday and didn’t want to miss it. As the second service neared its conclusion, I thought I had made it. I was feeling worn out and my head was a little foggy, but I had made it, or so I thought. I got up to lead my part of the communion time, opened my mouth and realized that I had only a small part of my voice left. My voice cut in and out from a whisper. It caught me off guard. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or mad. I didn’t know if my raspy voice was getting the message across, or just distracting the congregation. One thing was clear, I knew that I was out of time. The next morning I woke up with no voice.
Not having a voice proved to really frustrate me. I wanted to speak, but physically could not. I had things I wanted to talk about with my wife, but could not get the words to come out. I had to bang on the wall to get my kids’ attention. Being forced to be silent is not something I enjoyed at all. But, all of my frustration did me now good as I had very little I could do about it. The fact of the matter was that I was without a voice.
Today is Independence Day. A day in which we celebrate our freedom as a country and our freedom as individuals. We celebrate our ability to have a voice in the direction of our country. We celebrate that we can be heard. This is a right that we have as citizens of the United States of America.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment of the Constitution
We are able to worship God openly in this country. We are free to say, “God Bless You” and “Merry Christmas” to whomever we want to. That is the nature of free speech. However, these freedoms are always at stake. I recently had someone tell me that I am free to believe whatever I want, but should keep it to myself. Really? What about them telling me their belief? Doesn’t it work both ways? That is not what free speech is. Free speech means I can share what I believe. If someone doesn’t like it, that is their choice. This is the same right that atheist or other secular groups have. I don’t go bother them when they share what they don’t believe.
This is nothing new for those of us who follow Jesus Christ. There been many circumstances where tolerance is promoted as a virtue until the person is promoting Jesus Christ. Once Jesus is brought up then they are not allowed to talk anymore because Jesus is supposedly so “divisive.” The claim is that Christians are “out of touch.” At Christmas time it shows up in the use of the word ‘Christmas’ or the displays of the nativity. In the Spring people would rather talk about bunnies and chocolate than a Savior who left His throne to die for humanity.
Freedom isn’t easy. It never has been. Freedom does not just naturally occur. In the history of our country, something needed to be done to release us from the control of England. In the history of our faith, we needed someone to come release us from the sin that entangled us and condemned us to eternal separation from God. In both cases, freedom came at the cost of human life and in both cases, this freedom is still worth defending.
But, we do have a voice. We have the ability and right to speak up. We have a conscience which still reminds us that we are not controlled by what is popular in the culture. We have a God who leads us by the power of His Word and Spirit to be a voice for Him in a world that doesn’t naturally want to hear it. We are directed by the Word of God. We must use the voice we have been given so that we don’t lose that voice.
As you celebrate today, remember those who served to defend your freedom. Also, remember the God who left His throne, took on flesh and died in our place. Lastly, remember those you are able to be a voice for. There are those who live in poverty, slavery of different kinds, the unborn, the young and the vulnerable. They need us with a voice to speak out and help them find the freedom they too deserve.
You are free to live a life of obedience to God and to tell others why you do that. That is what freedom does; it wants others to be free as well.