In a few days we celebrate the Fourth of July, with this year marking the 245th anniversary of our nation’s independence. Freedom is a precious gift that we often take for granted. It is a basic human right that many are denied.
The Oxford Dictionary defines freedom as the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. That is the definition most of us would probably agree with, but I would like to suggest a different definition, one that the church has held to as “authentic” freedom.
Authentic freedom is the responsible exercise of one’s choices in relation to others. That kind of freedom follows the command of Jesus to love our neighbor as ourselves. We consider others before we act. We consider ourselves part of a larger whole, a larger community, and how authentic freedom best serves the whole and not just me and my little corner of the world.
We Americans pride ourselves on our autonomy, individualism and self-sufficiency. There is nothing wrong with that but it has to be balanced with a sense of our connection to one another. We bear, as Christians, a responsibility to one another and one another’s welfare. It is not always about me and my freedom but about us and our freedom.
It is not just about our country either. We are only one nation among many, all connected, all loved, and all sustained by the One God. How we exercise our freedom affects everyone, and withholding freedom from any one person, race, gender, nation, etc. affects us all.
Thomas Merton, the famed Trappist monk, recognized the unity and connection between all people when he said, “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not.”
What would happen if we imagined that we truly are one? What kind of freedom would that bring about in our world?
– Sallie Bachar