Tomorrow is July 4th! It is a day set aside, each year, to celebrate our independence as a nation. The freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of the United States of America are guaranteed in writing by our Constitution, and are the envy of much of the world.
Without question, there are many who oppose our country, even to the point of hatred and attempts to destroy it, either openly or overtly, through the use of weapons and fear.
At the same time, there are multitudes outside the borders of the United States of America, who are willing to take great risks, illegally and physically, in order to cross our borders and taste the benefits of freedoms that many Americans take for granted. Neither the prospect of prison or the fear of death can turn many of these aside; so great is their desire for freedom from the oppressive regimes of the underprivileged of this world.
Stories abound of those who have given up everything they owned, to be flown or driven, taken by boat or led on foot; just for the opportunity to stand in the land they’ve dreamed about for years. Many have been apprehended and returned to their own country. Some have been found suffocated to death in the burning heat of unventilated, railroad boxcars.
That is why many, who come from foreign countries, invest everything they own or know, in enterprises that, over time will become testimonies of their sacrificial living and marks of their determination to achieve. These individuals may not yet know the language, or understand the culture and lifestyle of their newfound country. But, each morning, when they arise to face a new day, they walk outside and breathe deeply, savoring the personal fragrance of freedom.
Letters are carefully written in their mother language, to those who are still enslaved in lands, where freedom is only a word; letters that passionately appeal for family to set everything else aside and make plans to join them in their wonderful new world of freedom.
I can only imagine what it must be like, to be separated for years from your family. But one day, word comes by letter or phone, that “we’re tired of how and where we’re living and we’re coming to join you.” The knowledge of the reunion to take place is nothing to be compared with the celebration that begins when family members are actually joined together. What a joyous time it must be, when the newcomers make their way into the circle of those who have sought this reunion for so long. Tears and laughter are freely shared between those who have sought for this day and those who have finally come their way.
The freedoms, the church enjoys and celebrates on it’s own Independence Day are guaranteed in writing, by the Word of God. Though hated by some and threatened by attempts to destroy the church, there are multitudes, once outside the borders of the church, who against the opposition of family upbringing, religious tradition and peer pressure, have laid aside everything for a chance to stand in a better land. In exchange, they have found freedom from sin, freedom from the fear of death, freedom to worship joyfully and spontaneously, etc.
Forsaking their past, these have joyfully, invested everything in their newfound spiritual freedom. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Phil. 3:7-8) It is then, that they remember family and friends, still living in sin, where freedom is only a word. A passionate appeal begins to be made for their loved ones to set everything aside and join them.
What a welcome day it has been, when for some, the phone rings and a voice says, “We’re tired of how and where we’re living and we want to join you in your newfound life.” What a joyous time it is when those we have prayed for and invited to leave the country of their past, actually walk through the doors of the church and into the arms of Jesus Christ. Tears and laughter are freely shared between those who have prayed for this day and those who have come this way.
We cannot afford to take our Independence Day for granted but we must, passionately and prayerfully, appeal to those afar off, to come this way.
Charles Bolinger is the pastor of Apostolic Bible Church in Lansing, MI.