One recurring word in our society is “freedom.”
Most recently we are hearing the desire to be free to decide if we wear a mask, and the freedom to decide whether to be vaccinated (or not). This is not surprising, as one of the founding principles of the United States of America was freedom – best expressed in the right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
This is not unique to the USA. Many countries around the world treasure their hard won freedom.
I am a guest in Brookings, having come from the Republic of South Africa to be a pastor in this community. This week my country celebrated “Freedom Day,” which is the equivalent of July 4 in the USA. South Africans established a constitutional democracy in 1994, and celebrated this event on Tuesday.
The concept of freedom is, however, older than our current constitutional democracies. We find the apostle Paul speaking of freedom as a divine calling.
But he also warns us that the gift of freedom comes with responsibility: “My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.” (Galatians 5:13).
The truth about our freedom is we are not free to do as we like. Instead our gift of freedom comes with the responsibility to protect the freedom of other people. And if my freedom crushes the life of another person, then, says Paul, I am to use my freedom of life to serve other people with love.