Wednesday, July 3, 2013
A Fourth of July Reflection
There is a lot of discussion today about different types of freedom, about rights for different groups and about the erosion of constitutional rights. All of these discussions are vitally important in a free country. People may have different ideas about the issue involved but we as citizens have a responsibility to make our voices heard in all of these areas. I am not going to focus here on this level of freedom, as important as it is. This freedom I would call civil freedom or freedom under the law. Thank God that we have our constitution and the ability to speak up when we think that it is not being observed and protected. This civil freedom, however, must be accompanied by another type of freedom. I prefer to call it Christian freedom, though on a very deep level it applies even to the non-believer, so I will call it inner freedom.
This past Sunday's second reading was from Paul's letter to the Galatians. Here I quote Chapter 5, verse 1 of that letter. "Brothers and sisters: For Freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." He later writes in verse 13, "Do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love."
Our Lord went to the Cross freely. He did so out of love. That is the deepest and most complete act of freedom ever exercised. The temple leaders and the Roman authorities put Him to death and tortured Him, but they did not take away His freedom.
This may seem a strange notion of freedom to some, but put simply it means that when I do the loving thing, the right thing, by my conscience, there is no civil authority, even though they imprison or kill me, that can take away my ability to freely choose to do that which is right. This is the freedom exercised by martyrs and be people imprisoned for their beliefs. It is the freedom exercised by anyone who does good even though they are mocked, rejected and ridiculed for it.
As an aside let me point out that when Paul speaks of not using freedom as an opportunity for the flesh he is not talking about the body and sexuality necessarily but rather using the word to mean the selfish ego, doing what pleases me rather than what serves others.
One of our problems today is that all too often people want to claim their civil right to do whatever but lack the inner compass to do the right thing, the good thing. In other words just because the law allows me to do something doesn't mean I have to do it.
So, as we celebrate Independence Day let's rejoice in our freedom. let's use that freedom responsibly and wisely. Let's ask if I should avoid doing some things even though the law says they are OK, and finally let us have the courage to act correctly even though I may have to pay a price for doing so.
I was going to give some examples of issues that this applies to but I think that my intelligent readers can read between the lines. I assure you that this is a challenge to folks of all political leanings.
Happy 4th of July