Today, in ballparks across America, the Star Spangled Banner will be sung (as always) and people will stand with the hands on their hearts. It is a small celebration of the freedom Americans enjoy—a freedom that is represented even on special ball caps Major League baseball players wear on patriotic holidays. The freedom to live, worship, and speak of Christ openly are part and parcel to the freedoms we sometimes cherish, sometimes celebrate, and sometimes take for granted. But freedom, by itself, can also be an enslaving thing. That may seem like a contradiction in terms but it isn’t. In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s wealth and power gave him freedom unknown to his fellow citizens of Israel—but that freedom only took him to places that ended up being fruitless, empty, and joyless. His analysis of the pursuit of pleasure fueled by freedom? He said, “Therefore I hated life…” (Ecc.2:17) He had it all! He had freedom, wealth, pleasure—more than a heart could desire. Yet, he was still empty. That is why, on this day when we as a country celebrate freedom, we need to understand that freedom is only valuable to the degree that it truly liberates us—not just to take or enjoy, but to experience life more abundantly. That kind of liberation can only come from the Christ who said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). It is a different kind of freedom—and an infinitely better kind of freedom. Why? Because it is the freedom to live in a way that truly matters—to live in a way that marks out life as more than just the freedom to do whatever I want. It is the freedom to do what is good and right and lasting. The freedom to live with eternity in mind. The freedom to honor the Savior who set me free. That is real freedom, because the Son of God Himself has set a person free. Do you know Him?   Bill Crowder, Sport Spectrum Chaplain