What does it look like to be truly free?
Is it going wherever you want, doing whatever you want, and playing by your own rules?
Is it embracing “my” liberties in pursuit of the best life I can possibly attain for myself?
Is it speaking my mind without thought to how those words will impact the hearers or readers, simply because it is my right to do so?
Though our rights are precious gifts from our Creator, if we look at those rights with a heart of how they benefit us without respect to others, then our picture of freedom is horribly distorted.
Let me show you, instead, a picture of true freedom.
It is the soldier who stands anxiously in the landing boat, and makes the choice to storm the beach, knowing the enemy guns trained on him will likely cost him his life.
It is the first responder who by choosing to put on the uniform, puts themselves in harm’s way daily to keep their communities safe.
It is the doctor and nurse working double shifts, giving up time with family so the ill and infirm can go home healthy to theirs.
It is the servant who, without fanfare or adulation, steps into prisons, homeless shelters, and crisis centers to be the hands and feet to the forgotten and forsaken.
It is the missionary who steps into untamed lands, both at home and abroad, so that those who have seen only darkness have a chance to experience the light of hope.
It is the mother who attends to the cries of a hurting child.
It is the father who turns off the TV to get down on the floor and embrace a child’s imagination.
And most of all, true freedom is this - it is a Savior who became servant, the one who dined with the hopeless and lost, who healed the hurting, who washed his disciples’ feet, and who chose, as a completely innocent man, to suffer a criminal’s death so we could all be truly free from the chains which bind us.
Jesus shows us by His life and death us true freedom is not in being served, but in serving through sacrifice. It is showing love, no matter the cost. It is in being willing to lay down our lives for others, because He laid down His life for us.
Being truly free comes with a responsibility not simply to look out for ourselves, but to steward it in humility lift others up. It means looking at the world around us with eyes of compassion and being willing to let go of what we have when we know it will meet a need and heal a heart.
Our nation’s freedom was won, and has been defended over two and a half centuries, in blood and sacrifice of countless millions of men and women. Our hearts’ freedoms have been won by the blood of a sinless savior who carried a cross up a hill, and was nailed to it to give us life.
Anytime throughout history freedom has been won, it has been one through courage, sacrifice, humility and love. This is the cost of freedom, and its one in which we all have the responsibility to share.
So, as we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, let us look to more than just a flag or a document.
Let us look, instead, with gratitude toward the blood that was shed to make us truly free.
Daniel Kiewel is a reporter with the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.