In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln's army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him:
"My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it …. Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom, saying, "Let the world see that you merit your freedom. Don't let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom He has liberated by His death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn't an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God's laws. Which ultimately is found in His grace, for the law no longer holds us and constrains us, if, and it's a big if, if we live according to His grace!
Happy 4th of July!