From Rayford's Desk, 07/03/22

On this Monday, as a nation, we will celebrate our 246th birthday. It seems just yesterday to me, that we were celebrating the Bicentennial (200 years) of America. I can still remember being at my great uncle's home for a big family celebration and watching on television as a parade of Tall Ships made their way into New York Harbor as part of the national celebration. There was much bar-b-cue, potato salad and apple pie enjoyed and as I remember, just a little bit of homemade ice cream, cranked out by hand. Then at dusk, we got out the fire works that we had been wanting to fire off for three days. It was a 4th of July just about like the one that our family and many of you and our fellow Americans will be enjoying on this Monday.

The United States of America is far from a perfect place, but I cherish the liberties and freedom that our forefathers fought for and many died for nearly 250 years ago now. There are many things we as Americans do not agree on, but many more things that we all hold in common. As we enjoy all of the festivities, let us commit to truly being, "One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All."

But friends let us also remember, not just on the 4th of July but every day, that as wonderful as our liberties and freedoms are as citizens of the United States of America, none of these come close to our liberty and freedom from sin that we have in Christ Jesus. I am afraid that sometimes people, including some Christians, assume that freedom means that we can just do whatever we want to do. Freedom is great, but with it come responsibilities also, in a free, democratic society, where we must also follow the laws of the land. Our freedom as Americans is found in the ability that we have to make personal decisions, within the law. Our freedom as Christians is about our being free from the consequences of sin, as Paul so aptly describes about our lives in Christ in Romans 8:1-2, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."

As we live free in Christ, we are still called by our Lord to be good citizens, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience." Romans 13:1-5. At the same time, we must never forget that the Law of Christ supersedes man's laws as Paul again makes clear, now in I Corinthians 10:23-24, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."