Today is July 4th, a truly great holiday in which we recognize and celebrate the freedom we enjoy in this great land. Today we also can remind ourselves at what a high price that freedom was won, and what we can do with it.

Like many of you, I cannot express enough appreciation or admiration for the men and women who have served in uniform. We the people of the United States are truly blessed to be connected to so many brave members of the military, both past and present. Countless soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and others have given their lives to earn the freedom we enjoy.

On the Fourth of July (and every day), these heroes deserve all the respect we can offer and more. The late University of Oklahoma professor and historian J. Rufus Fears often spoke of the remarkable legacy of heroes we have in America. He also said that what makes America truly a unique nation in that it is the only one founded on an idea; namely freedom.

In addition to the military, Dr. Fears attributed the people of faith to the advancement of freedom. He once said, “The Baptists were prime movers in the spread of liberty across our continent. Baptist preachers were some of the strongest speaking out in favor of the (War for Independence) and in preaching these virtues of liberty and country. The Founders also believed education was essential to freedom and students had to be educated for the responsibility of self-government, and that’s of course something we… forget today.”

He went on to say, “For every freedom, there’s a corresponding responsibility. We only want freedom. We don’t want responsibility.” Dr. Fears was exactly right.

While we are quick to cherish and celebrate freedom, few can be found that will live out the responsibility that comes with it.

For example, in America, we have freedom of religion. We are able to gather for religious worship free of persecution. Yet many people, Christians included, have squandered that freedom and sought other pursuits. Many people in society now view Sunday like any other day, as opposed to a special day for worship. We thus waste our freedom of religion and worship.

In America, we also have freedom of speech. Yet too many of us also squander that freedom, by staying silent on some of the most key issues of the day, like protecting the vulnerable and those who cannot speak for themselves, like the unborn. Or perhaps worse, there are others who abuse freedom of speech, with vulgar or empty talk on social media.

As Christians, instead of wasting our hard-earned freedom, we can instead learn to embrace it as an opportunity to spread the Gospel and live in obedience to the commands of Christ.

Throughout history and around the world today, there are vast numbers of people living in captivity or oppression. While we do everything we can to spread freedom around the world to others, let’s find ways to exercise our freedom in America in wise ways.

This July 4, let’s harness the freedom we have for the glory of God, the spread of the Gospel and the betterment of our neighbors. Happy Independence Day!