It is a snowy morning in Seattle and even though I don’t need to travel to get to my desk I thought that I would at least relax and enjoy our winter wonderland for a few minutes. Why does it take something like a snowy day to make me feel I can relax? It obviously shows that my priorities are a little skewed. Which brings me to talking about something else that will probably make you feel that my perspectives are a little skewed – my understanding of freedom. Why is this revolving in my mind?
First because Saturday was Australia Day – once a time to celebrate the arrival of the First Fleet and the establishment of Australia as a nation. Today there is an attempt to place some emphasis on the need for reconciliation between white and aboriginal Australians but the celebrations are still very much focused on white Australia.
Second I am in the middle of becoming an American citizen. As a consequence I have paid more attention to the political process that is going on around me than ever before and at the same time find myself struggling once again with the Amercian concept of freedom. Recently I realized that my basic problem is that when I use the word freedom I have a totally different understanding than the average Amercian
To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms. What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live.
To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world. Consequently most Australians are willing to give up the right to bear arms for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings. In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.
All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?” Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ. However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society. Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2) It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
What do you think?