Freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Yet, such freedom does not apply simply to ourselves. By our power or right to act, we must ensure that all have the power or right to act.
We have the freedom of speech, but when what we say slanders or libels someone or when what we say incites others to do violence against others, then that speech is restricted. It is restricted because it has prevented others from their right to speak.
We mandated masks during the pandemic, because it was a public safety measure. By wearing masks, we ensured that others – including ourselves – could remain healthy. We wore masks during the pandemic, just like we wear seatbelts in cars or airplanes or helmets on motorcycles.
Paul tells us, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) According to Paul, if we act according to our own desires, we are no longer free but are serving the “flesh.” Paul says that Christ has set us free to live according to the Spirit, according to God’s will.
Martin Luther put it this way: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.” We have been freed to love and serve one another. And we work to extend that freedom for all people.
Think about how that changes the conversation on freedom in the United States!
In freedom I get a vaccination and wear a mask during a pandemic, because I wish to work for the health of myself and all those I come in contact with.
In freedom I speak and act for the dignity of all people. In freedom I speak and act out against such words or actions that will cause harm to any individual or group.
In freedom I declare that Black Lives Matter and that the killing of African American young men must end in this country.
In freedom I embrace Pride Month and the inclusion of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and declare that we must stop treating them as outside of God’s grace.
In freedom I embrace the Me Too movement and stand against any exploitation of women.
In freedom I stand with my Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and atheist brothers and sisters, declaring that they have the right to worship or not worship in the same way that I do.
In freedom I stand with the immigrant and declare that their economic and physical exploitation must end.
This July 4th, I encourage all of us through our displays of fireworks and celebrations to renew ourselves in what freedom truly means and to continue to work toward the freedom of all people.