This morning I’m thinking about the word “freedom.” I believe it is an especially interesting concept set against the backdrop of Memorial Day. Memorial Day encourages us to think about the cost of freedom, the steep price other people were willing to pay to ensure our access to the privileges of living in liberty.
Let’s not gloss over the words “access to” and “privilege.” Just because we have access to freedom doesn’t mean that we actually live in it. We all know of people in some kind of bondage right here in the U.S.A – bondage by self interest, by debt, by various addictions, by consequences, by the lies of people they trust, by decisions they did not properly think through, some are even literally in jail. Because it turns out that freedom is an option and not a given.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1
The other side of the freedom coin:
Freedom that works remains contingent on our understanding of and our active attention to the other side of the freedom coin. The other side of the freedom coin is “responsibility.” Not only that, but functional, day-to-day freedom is sometimes more practically a collective experience. Freedom is not always an individual thing – it’s more than a “my life, my consequences” equation. We were created for – and we live in – community, and so we have the opportunity to compromise the freedom of our neighbor when we neglect the responsibility component of our own.
So freedom necessarily involves trust. My freedom to drive all over this community in my sporty little TDi means nothing absent your freedom to walk this neighborhood with small children and trust that I won’t zoom round the corner doing 80-mph while your family is crossing the street. Your freedom to exercise controversial or profane speech is not relevant without my trust that you won’t disrupt my conversation, or my picnic, or my study group by yelling hateful rhetoric or profanity.
- Give and take;
- freedom and responsibility;
- your smoke, our air;
- liberty and trust;
- free expression and thoughtful respect;
- go my own way… but then standing aside to let you go yours;
- my personal health, our dangerous virus.
My personal health… our collective health. Your face-mask decision… my right to breathe uncontaminated air.
Does my liberty trump your safety?
“Freedom from Tyranny!” some signs read, held high by angry protesters in communities where some people do not like the health decisions that are being made in the public interest.
On Memorial Day we honor the memory of those who gave everything, even their lives, for my right to stand in the street and say stupid stuff without fear of the government. But the moment anyone’s freedom to think or to say or do “whatever the hell I want” translates into abridging their neighbor’s right to life, to liberty, or to the pursuit of happiness then we have a situation that is no longer “all about me”, but “all about us.”
Remember that amazing scripture from yesterday? “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy1:7).
Not fear! But power. Not just power but love. And all of this – all of this liberty and freedom and rights and “don’t tell a red-blooded American what to do!!” – in the context of a sound mind.
Praying sound minds prevail. Yes, and freedom too – DEREK