By Rev. Ray Atwood, Prince of Peace Cluster
July 4 falls on a Saturday this year. This is a wonderful summertime holiday. Independence Day is also an opportunity to reflect on the important theme of freedom. What is freedom according to the Church?
Saint Paul tells the Christians at Galatia: “You were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use the freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather serve one another through love” (5:13). Freedom is a human quality. God created man in His image and likeness. The image refers to our ability to reason, while the likeness refers to free will. We are the only creatures that can make free will decisions. Animals, on the other hand are not free because they cannot make free will decisions.
Freedom is the exercise of our talents and abilities. It is the necessary quality of true human behavior. Paul tells the Christian community to use their freedom for service rather than selfish fulfillment. We serve our neighbor freely and without reservation, thus becoming what God calls us to be.
There are different kinds of freedom: there is artistic freedom, or the ability to exercise our artistic talents such as painting or architecture; there is intellectual freedom, or the ability to exercise our minds in creative writing such as poetry; there is physical freedom, or the ability to move about without restraint; and finally, there is the freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:21). The ultimate liberation of God’s people comes when we live as Christ intends.
As we celebrate Independence Day weekend with parades, picnics, hot dogs and apple pie, let us remember what freedom means, and use our freedom in the service of our neighbor.