On July 4th of each year the citizens of the U.S. "we the people" commemorate our nation's birth with a patriotic holiday. We call it Independence Day. We celebrate that our country chose to shake off the shackles of oppression and to establish a government that believed in the importance of liberty and a different kind of freedom.
Independence Day like many summer holidays, gets overshadowed by things like parties, family gatherings, picnics, and day off from work. Yet, at the heart of these pursuits is the desire to freely enjoy our lives, and our individual way of thinking.
Throughout our U.S. history millions have flocked to our shores seeking a life with this promise "The American Dream" as most call it. Our country has grown tremendously in wealth and influence precisely because we accepted these people. They are not always welcomed with open arms because racism and bigotry have always been around. But the diversity of our population is one of our greatest assets. Too often we think it is the source of our problems. Our mindset is that it was alright for our ancestors to find America’s shores, but we're reluctant about today’s new arrivals, usually out of fear that will take our piece of American pie.
Today it is easy to criticize what we find wrong with our country, our political, and our legal system. The lack of equality when it comes to the freedom to pursue “life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness”. It is our right and a duty of each citizen to protest injustice. That was exactly what was happening back in 1776 when the colonists were fed up with the imposition of unfair taxation, representation, and repression they felt from "Mother England".
Before we can prophetically speak on the issues of societal freedom I think we must first look at our individual freedom. We cannot separate the two and be fair, and we can't demand changes in the system unless we first look closely at our own situations and face up to the freedoms we have that come with our patriotic responsibility as a citizen, and Christian beliefs.
If you are currently living with an income that meets your basic needs of food and shelter, and you have the freedom to worship as you please. If you have done some “inside work” to discover how much you live from your false self (the one that always wants to get your own way – even with good intentions) and the opportunity to live from your true self (the one that is in union with God and our fellow man), then you must face up to the responsibility of being a freedom fighter for God's kingdom and this great country.
Before you pick up your picket sign and go marching off to war for social justice, just take a moment to look at what Jesus did in his situation in Palestine. He didn't go around demanding that Rome leave the occupied Holy land. He didn't tell his disciples or the people that He spoke to that they are the only ones who get God's grace. But He did remark about the many that were persecuted, prosecuted, and those who were not in favor with the current government and Jewish hierarchy. If you are intrigued by these comments you could go read this for yourself, the messages are there in the four Gospels of the New Testament.
Jesus gave us an invitation to follow Him in the way of real truth, real justice and real freedom. He told us that when we receive others we are receiving Him, and following the commandments that our Father in heaven asks us to do. He gathered the small children in His arms and instructed grownups to be innocent and trusting like children. He also told us the world would not understand this, and we would face persecution, and possibly prosecution when we choose to follow this path.
The struggle for each of us face is to be honest with where we are with these teachings in our daily lives. This takes a daily assessment and reckoning. We cannot be completely faithful unless we are spending more time looking at ourselves, our faults, our shortcomings, and the blessings that we receive, than we are at pointing out the faults of others, or envying the blessings that others receive.
The teachings of Jesus in the Four Gospels give us clear cut directions on how to do this. I know I can't begin to honestly assess my faults and blessings without this help in the Four Gospels and also with the strength we receive from our Father in heaven.
It All Starts With You
It has to start with each of us; the freedom to choose the way of love, or hate. The individual freedoms we have cannot be separated from the societal freedom we should all share. Here is why community is necessary. Community must include everybody! If it only includes those we like or want to be with, then we just create little cliques and gather power, then we are in the role of oppressor (even when we don't think so).
The followers of Christianity, who are true believers in the equal spreading of God's Word and His blessings, are the real “Freedom Fighters” in this world. We can do this from a position of humility and service to our Father. We can be passionate and compassionate to one and all. If we can truly see Jesus in others and ourselves; we can rejoice that God hasn't reserved His love only for the righteous, but for all.
True freedom is the freedom to let go of past hurts and resentments, to let go of future ambitions and trust that our Father in heaven will take care of us. It is the freedom to truly accept others. It is freedom to be a giver and not just a taker. It is this powerful freedom that oddly springs from our acceptance that we are, powerless without our Fathers grace, mercy, and blessings that He gives each of us through His love, and being blessed by in living in this great country.