by Gene Zackerman, Life Group leader

During this time of the summer, we enjoy the American holiday that we know as the Fourth of July.  It has become a celebration of family, fireworks, and freedom. While we partake of our burgers, watermelon, and ice cream, let’s take a step back in time to understand how we got here.

We learned in school about pilgrims and puritans, or separatists as they were known in the 17th century.  Why did they risk everything to uproot their families and journey into the unknown?  Several factors led them to flee their homes and country, including economic and political reasons. The driving force, however, was religious freedom.

In the 1500’s, England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church to form the Church of England.  What followed was a time of religious turmoil. Puritans believed, as we do, that freedom to worship God was indeed scriptural. Because of their beliefs, they were viewed disdainfully as nonconformists.  The monarchy even persecuted them for their faith, a practice that still exists in many parts of the world today.

As the Puritans fled to the colonies, becoming known as colonists, they escaped the persecution of King James I. They believed, under the authority of God’s word, that there is only one true authority, our Father in Heaven. They worshipped Him only and raised their families in the ways of the Word. As we know from our history books, colonists united in the 18th century to oppose British rule in their fight for independence. English sources teach that British forces walked away from the war because the economic cost didn’t justify the fight. Whatever the reason, colonial leaders gathered to formally declare independence from England on July 4, 1776.

Two hundred forty-seven years later, our nation under God still stands. It isn’t perfect, but neither are we.  The cost of freedom was paid on the cross when God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, became sin for us.  When we confess our sins to Him and ask for His ultimate forgiveness, we become new creations in Christ.  Our sinful nature still exists, but we can know the ultimate freedom in that forgiveness. Let’s remember that today as we pay tribute to those who have defended, and continue to defend, that freedom.

Pray for our nation.