Thoughts on Freedom

May 26, 2020

This is a highly unusual Memorial Day. Each year we honor and celebrate the men and women who served our country (translates U.S.) by giving their lives in military service, protecting us. Many of the traditional remembrances such as parades and picnics have been canceled or are being held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our celebrations and recognitions are still deep and meaningful. Every network and community as well as countless individuals are doing their best to see that these heroes are adequately remembered today, and that their sacrifices are not forgotten. From the Revolutionary War onward, their efforts secured our freedoms. I for one am so grateful to my father, several uncles, and many friends who served and for those we especially remember today who “gave the last measure of devotion.”

Two of the freedoms they sacrificed so much to give us are freedom of religion and freedom of speech. As I look at the use, misuse, and abuse of those freedoms today, I am reminded of our spiritual heritage of freedom and the warnings we have about that.

Galatians 5:13-15 talks to us very clearly about what freedom is about: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

We do have freedom of speech as Americans. But even that should have honorable limits, even without the attitudes and behaviors prescribed in the Word of God. We should be giving each other the benefit of the doubt. We should allow each other to have their own opinions. Their interests and good should be more important to us than our own. We should speak in humility and realize that none of us have all knowledge, and few of us have enough knowledge to be speaking definitively on the subjects we address. We should address each other courteously and respectfully, and if we claim to be Christians, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sorrowfully, I am seeing much that doesn’t come close to honoring those or any of the other many guidelines given over and over again in Scripture. We have “freedom of speech,” but what we say should be true, necessary, and helpful. A high percentage of the things that are about politics or how to handle the virus are in the “biting and devouring each other category.”

Let’s think about freedom of religion, which means we have the right to practice whatever religion we prefer, but not the right to force it on others. For those of us who are Christ-followers, we think of our God-focus not as a religion but as a relationship. Within that relationship with God, we realize that we all have access to God, we recognize the “priesthood of believers,” which means that we all are accountable to God and He speaks to all of us.

If we actually believe that, it means we can have our opinions, but we don’t get to label and define in disparaging terms anyone who doesn’t agree with us on when and how to “reopen churches,” whether to meet in person or online, or any of the many arenas where Christians have disagreed with each other in this period. We are “biting and devouring each other” with our scathing remarks, sarcastic commentary, and demeaning speech. What so many self-professed Christians, even Christian leaders, are spouting on social media is downright embarrassing, brings ridicule on the name of the Christ we profess, and damages our witness.

Friends, we are called to serve one another humbly in love. Those words you are about to say, the statements you are about to post—do they fall into the “serving humbly in love” category, or do they have the clear connection to the “biting and devouring” category? Our words are to build, not destroy.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29.

If the words you speak or write cannot pass that test, don’t post them, don’t say them. We must stop biting, devouring, and destroying each other. Neither Jesus nor our honored soldiers died to give us freedom to do that.