For Americans, July 4th is a day when our minds turn to freedom, remembering it was this day in 1776 that our forebears stunned King George III, Great Britain’s Parliament and the rest of the world with the Declaration of Independence. A declaration it was, not a suggestion, not a request. Declarations force those stating such to back it up with wholly committed action, or if not this, then forever be scoffed at as weak wannabes without the guts to make it happen, or go down trying. We stuck by our declaration, fellow Americans, and here we are, freedom bringers to all other lovers of liberty.
Freedom. What does it mean in its truest, most beneficial sense? I worry that sometimes we have a skewed definition of liberty that might be actually closer to anarchy. Too many are convinced that freedom means ‘I can do whatever I want.’ We must clearly define and diligently practice the responsibilities of freedom, lest it corrode into lawlessness.
I don’t know who said it, but from my study journal there is this, ‘Only those willing to bear the burdens of freedom have a right to its rewards.’ The rewards we love; the burdens are not as easily welcomed.
Freedom burdens us to be responsible, to care for the interest of others as well as our own; to realize that just because we are allowed to do something doesn't mean it’s the best decision. Liberty allows us to drive on public property anywhere we choose, but the responsibility of freedom gives us that right to drive with the restraint of a speed limit.
Apostle Paul put it this way in 1Cor. 10:23 ‘All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.’ He’s saying there is so much allowed, but I want to do that which is profitable, wholesome and helpful to all, not just my mood of the moment. Permission is not the only consideration of those with mature understanding of liberty, but also is it beneficial? Is some other person or good harmed or diminished if I exercise my ‘rights’?
Twice in the book of James we find the phrase ‘law of liberty’. To some these two terms contradict each other, but the wiser mind understands there is no liberty without law, law considerate of all, not just a few. Freedom is not the absence of any restraint; that is simply lawlessness, which is simply another flavor of tyranny. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew that it was only half their endeavor to cast off the oppression of unjust rule; the other half, more difficult than the first, was founding a nation of liberty within just law.
Savoring liberty’s rewards comes only with acceptance her responsibilities.