One of the high points of summer is upon us.  The fourth of July.  Independence Day.  Fireworks stands are popping up.  Brats and charcoal are on sale.  Red, white and blue decorations are aplenty.  On this day, Americans celebrate independence and freedom.
Nearly 250 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, we continue to hold these values.  We are encouraged to engage civically.  Elections are held.  Checks and balances are built into our government structure.  We are vigilant about our freedoms and on guard when they are threatened. 
Jesus and Scripture speak frequently about freedom.  This summer’s readings include Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  Freedom is a key theme throughout this epistle.  “For freedom Christ has set us free” (5:1).  Paul’s concern is that humans create laws or activities as the only valid way to approach God or gain God’s favor.  One of Paul’s central points throughout this letter is that Christian freedom is freedom from various requirements or laws.  God’s love and presence and salvation come as a gift, not a reward.
Paul then sets parameters to this freedom.  It is not a freedom for self-indulgence, but a freedom so that we “through love become slaves to one another” (5:13).  Freedom from the requirements of the law does not constitute an “anything goes” freedom.  It still has boundaries.  These boundaries are lived out in responsibility and commitment to the welfare of others. 
Paul continues, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (5:14).  Paul uses those words of Jesus to describe not only what we are free from, but what we are free for.
Professor Elizabeth Johnson writes, “Christ frees us not only from the law, but from the sinful self. Freed from self, we are free to serve the neighbor, to ‘become slaves to one another’ through love. To serve ‘through love’ means that serving is done not to meet the demands of the law or even to feel good about ourselves. It is completely focused on the needs of the neighbor.”
The signers of the Declaration of Independence considered not only themselves, but their communities and their descendants.  We continue to reap the benefits from their actions.  May the generations that follow us reap the benefits of our actions. 
Pastor John