Today, July 4th, we are celebrating America’s 242nd birthday. Our founding fathers, in 1776, declared, (in an act of treason mind you against Great Britain), our freedom from the tyranny of England and King George. And the rest, as they say, is history. But, on this day that we celebrate our freedom, I can’t help but ask the question: “what exactly is freedom?” Some define freedom as being able to do whatever you please…to have the luxury to indulge all one’s personal pleasures. I would maintain that is not freedom. I would maintain that is nothing more than bondage or slavery to those personal pleasures and desires…whatever those might be.
So…what is freedom?
Dictionary.com has numerous definitions (17 if you are interested) but for the most part it says freedom is: “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/freedom?s=t) Then there is what is known as the philosophy of freedom, that I think we all tend to like a little too much, which basically asserts that we have the power to make our own decisions and there are no restraints on those decisions from external or internal forces. Or to quote the Canadian rock band, Sloan: “If it feels good, do it.” The problem is…just because something feels good does not mean it is something we should do.
I personally prefer what the Apostle Paul had to say about freedom in Galatians 5:13 – 14: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Freedom separated from the love we should have for one another is no freedom at all. What I am finding is that everything we do should be built on a foundation of love. When we do that we can begin to see other people for who God created them to be and not who we think they should be. We can make our choices based not only on what is best for us but on how those choices impact others, even impact the world around us.
Our freedom is a hard won aspect of our life in America and it should never be taken for granted. It is also one we should be willing to defend, share, and encourage for all people around the globe. Jimmy Carter is quoted as saying, “Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere. Our moral sense dictates a clear cut preference for these societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights . We do not seek to intimidate, but it is clear that a world which others can dominate with impunity would be inhospitable to decency and a threat to the well-being of all people.” Freedom is something all people seek, all people desire, and all people should have access to. But defining freedom as something that only benefits my desires is a perversion of what freedom is truly all about.
True freedom is loving others more that we love ourselves so the choices we make are beneficial not only for us, but for our society, and our world. Let Freedom ring!
Wishing you all a happy 4th of July!