What does it mean to be free?
On this 4th of July in 2016, here in the United States we are celebrating the day we declared independence from the tyrannical oligarchy that was Britain in 1776.
As Americans we love to talk about our freedom and what we’re free from.
But I’d like to pose a different perspective...
What if instead of talking about what we’re free from, we starting asking the question:
What are we free for?
To focus on what we’re free from is to stare into the rearview mirror of history, constantly pointing backwards. And don’t get me wrong, I believe there is merit in that...
I believe that focusing on what we’re free for has much more merit.
I believe that our freedom has more to do with loving our neighbor than free speech or the right to bear arms.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m Texan through and through. I believe in the values of free speech and I am absolutely for the right to bear arms. PLEASE don’t misunderstand me.
But those values and rights shouldn’t be held above loving our neighbor.
As a follower of Jesus, I have a certain perspective on this. If you don’t follow Jesus, know that I’m not trying to force anything down your throat...I simply want to share my beliefs and stance on why I believe that our freedom as Americans should compel us to love our neighbors well.
In the scriptures, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandement is, he says, (from Mark 12:31) “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament with this response. The ‘Love your neighbor” bit is from Leviticus 19:18. It was a Levitical law to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
But there’s a flaw with this law. (ha...that rhymes)
Loving your neighbor as yourself means you first have to actually love yourself. And let’s be honest, some of us have a hard time doing that.
Some of us have self-esteem issues. Body image issues. Social issues. The list goes on. There are things we don’t like/appreciate/understand about ourselves. And that can make it hard to love ourselves.
So if we have a hard time loving ourselves, how in the world can we love others well?
Thankfully, Jesus changed the precedent.
In John 13:34, Jesus says:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
Jesus repeats it again in John 15:12: "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”
No longer do we look to ourselves as the example of how to love, but now we have a perfect example of how to love others.
And the source is not ourselves. It’s Jesus himself.
So when I think about loving others, I don’t look to my own standard (wherever that might come from), but I look to the standard that Jesus set.
How did Jesus love others? Unconditionally and sacrificially.
So, as Americans, how does that relate to our freedom? I’m not going to answer that for you. I merely want to challenge the tendency to always look back at what we’re free from. Instead, let’s focus on more on the present and think about what we’re free for...or rather, who we're free for.
For clarity’s sake: this wasn’t written to be political or even religious. I believe in our freedoms. But sometimes we can focus too much on ‘being right’ instead of loving well.
What do you think we are free for? I'd love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below to discuss!