The harsh reality of freedom

I was recently invited to a pool party in which the invitation made it clear that there would be free food and drinks.  I attended and it was true – everything there was free to me.  When I left, I remember thinking three things:

  1. That was a lot of fun.
  2. The host was very generous to open up her beautiful home on the lake.
  3. Though free to me, all the food and drink cost someone something.

We love to use the word “free” in our country.  The problem with the word is that it is not entirely accurate.   It’s somewhat deceiving as whatever we are enjoying for free actually cost someone something.

Our constitution promises each citizen the following five basic freedoms:

  1. Freedom of speech.  The First Amendment keeps the American government from making laws that might stop us from expressing rational opinions.  We still have the right to criticize the government and to share their opinions with others.
  2. Freedom of religion.  Citizens have the freedom to attend the church, synagogue, temple or mosque of their choice – or not attend at all.  The First Amendment allows us to practice our religion the way we want to.
  3. Freedom of Press.  A free press means we can get information from many different sources. The government cannot control what is printed in newspapers, magazines and books, broadcast on TV or radio or offered online.
  4. Freedom of Assembly.  Citizens can come together in public and private gatherings. They can join groups for political, religious, social or recreational purposes.
  5. Freedom of Petition.  “To petition the government for a redress of grievances” means that citizens can ask for changes in the government. They can do this by collecting signatures and sending them to their elected representatives; they can write, call or e-mail their elected representatives; they can support groups that lobby the government.

Beyond that, there are many other freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy.  Some of my personal favorites are: free wi-fi, free refills, and buy one – get one free deals.

Today, we celebrate July 4th – Independence Day – the day our nation became “free” from the Tyranny of Great Britain.  As a result, we are able to experience many freedoms that most countries only dream of.  But today should be more than just celebrating our freedoms.  It is also a day we should contemplate the cost of that freedom.  The harsh reality is that freedom is not really free.  Someone sacrificed to give us the right to say what we want to say.  Many have died to give us the freedom to worship how we desire.   Countless individuals gave up their freedom in order for us to maintain ours.

Like Zac Brown reminds us in his song, “Chicken Fried”,

“I thank God for my life and for the stars and stripes.  May freedom forever fly.  Let it ring.  Salute the ones who died. The ones that give their lives so we don’t have to sacrifice all the things we love… like our chicken fried, and cold beer on a Friday night, a pair of jeans that fit just right and the radio up.”

When you see our American flag waving today, remember the cost that was paid so you have the freedom to salute it.

When you hear the “Star Spangled Banner” being played, remember the price that was paid so you could sing it on American soil, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The next time you see an American solider, stop and thank them for their sacrifice.  Literally stop and thank them.  They willingly give up their freedoms so you can keep enjoying yours.

And the next time you gaze at a cross, remember what you are looking at.  In the first century, it was known as a capital punishment instrument.   It is our modern-day electric chair.  But to many of us – that cross is the ultimate symbol of freedom.

Freedom always has an expensive price tag and one that is only fully paid with a bloody sacrifice.  THAT is the harsh reality of freedom.  And for that, I am eternally grateful – for soldiers and Savior alike.