Fourth of July, Independence Day. It’s a day that conjures up images of barbecues and parades, flags and fireworks. It’s picnics and baseball games, political speeches and family reunions. It’s ice cream and hot dogs, swimming and sunburns.

The day Americans remember breaking their dependence on Britain, their victory as immigrants to a new world claimed for themselves (though it was far from unoccupied), their freedom from tyranny and oppression.

A day to celebrate the American Dream—in the words of the man who coined this phrase: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement… in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

If we hoard freedom just for ourselves—for our own success and happiness—what good is it, really?

A land better and richer and fuller. With opportunity for each, recognized for who they are, regardless of circumstance.

This Independence Day, as you gather with friends and family and spend a sun-bleached day together, who can you extend your freedom to? Is there someone who has not yet experienced freedom the same way you and I do? 

Freedom for your neighbors and those marginalized in your community. 

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Freedom for the asylum seekers at our southern border, exhausted and haunted by the violence they have fled.

Freedom for those chased by poverty or stalked by racism.

Freedom for our LGBTQ neighbors from bullies and beatings. 

Freedom for worshipers—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and every kind—in their sanctuaries.

We don’t just celebrate that kind of freedom that makes our lives convenient, safe, easy. That freedom is small.

The freedom we celebrate is a beautiful thing. The protection of our government to pursue our freedom is glorious and rare. But if we hoard it just for ourselves—for our own success and happiness—what good is it, really?

What if our freedom wasn’t for us to keep, but to give away for the sake of others? What if we used our freedom to speak out, to show up, to include others, to listen? What if we used our voices and our money and our power the way we chose—only, the way we chose was for the good of more than just ourselves?

So that the freedom we are promised and the freedom we protect isn’t for just us, but for all, for the broken and hurting, for the war-torn and weary, for the immigrant and the displaced—the same as for you and for me. 

There is no greater freedom than love. Love that is boundless, enduring, and elevating. Love that crosses borders and transcends power structures, love that unites rather than divides, love that calls out the worth of others, love that goes into dark places and hard conversations. Love that works to heal everything that’s tearing us apart. 

Love that promises and pleads for a better and richer and fuller life—for all. 

This Independence Day, who will you share your freedom with?