“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”(The Declaration of Independence)
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”(The Constitution of the United States of America)
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance)
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
(The New Colossus)
These are all calls to freedom. These words represent the ideals that we believe in and want our nation and government to be built on. The last of these is especially close to my heart. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.” It is part of the poem “The New Colossus” that is engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. To me it represents the call to freedom sent out by our nation to the world.
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another..~ Gal. 5:13-26 (ASV)
The passage in Galatians is also a call to freedom but of another sort. Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Gal. 5:13 (ASV) Paul was facing people who wanted to enslave the new Gentile Christians to Jewish laws. In a sense in his letter Paul declares independence from that law. He proclaims that we have been set free from the tyranny of trying to make ourselves righteous. It is not we who make ourselves righteous but God through Christ who graciously forgives and cleanse us.
The problem is that some deliberately misinterpreted this freedom from the law as a license to sin. But Paul makes it clear that it is not a freedom to sin but freedom from sin. Through Jesus’ blood we are made righteous and are free to act righteously. So we should not use our freedom as an opportunity to act unrighteously.
He sums this new freedom up ironically in the term “servant,” or “slave.” We should use this freedom to serve others. We have been set free not to think of our own wants and desires. We have been set free from selfishness so that we can truly love our neighbor. Before Christ we were lost in our selfishness, but now we are free to participate in God’s love for all people through our service.
Having described the basic concept of Christian freedom from sin and to serve, Paul gets more specific. We have been set free from the desires of the flesh. These are: “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” All of these are based on a love of the self over a love of the neighbor. Fulfilling these desires entails sacrificing the neighbor in order to satisfy the self. They all involve loving things and using people. In Christ we have been called to freedom from these things.
Conversely we have been set free to enjoy the fruits of the Spirit. These are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. All of these are only truly experienced when we sacrifice ourselves for others. We only truly know love and joy when we give to another. In contrast to the desires of the flesh fulfilling the fruits of the Spirit involve loving people and using things. This is freedom to become more than we were. It is freedom to imitate the goodness of God and participate in his love.
Paul goes on: ” those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires..” We have abandoned that old allegiance to serve the self and pledged our allegiance to serve God and our neighbor. As Christians we have declared our independence from sin and have devoted ourselves to righteousness. We have cast off the chains of selfishness and are free to serve others as Christ served us.
True freedom is in knowing God. The truth is that we were all born in sin. Yes we were created equal and equally we all have fallen short of the glory of God. As children of God by creation we all have been offered freedom from sin through Jesus Christ. For it is only through the selfless love of God and self sacrifice that we can truly know joy and happiness.
Declare your independence from sin. Ordain and establish your personal constitution to seek justice and tranquillity, to defend the poor and help the needy, to know the fruits of the Spirit. Pledge your allegiance to the cross of Christ and the one who suffered and died on it. And by that allegiance know the true peace and joy that servanthood can give.
Today we are called to freedom! Since this country was founded millions have heard and responded to the call to political freedom. And the huddled masses of the world yearning to breath free have come to these shores. Paul calls you to spiritual freedom: to cast off the chains of the desires of the flesh, to know the liberty of servanthood. God calls us all to accept Christ and his will for our lives so that we can truly love our neighbor. §