The celebration of Independence Day every Fourth of July, is a celebration of freedom. This American holiday is, in my opinion, one of our most substantive holidays in terms of ideology. Freedom is at the very heart of American culture. It permeates the whole of our society from our government, to our politics, to our economy, to our social structure, and our core values. Certain freedoms were of such importance to our founding fathers that they were articulated into our Constitution. They are protected by law.
Freedom also takes center stage in much American debate. Often it is an issue of the freedoms of the individual versus the freedoms of the majority. These debates are heated and there is passion on both sides. My intent is not to get into these debates themselves, but to address the idea of freedom itself. More specifically, the principle that true freedom always exists within boundaries.
Many people mistakenly believe that freedom is the absence of consequences. This is not the case. In fact, it is not even possible for freedom to exist outside of, or independent from, the natural law of consequences. Here in America, we are free because we have laws, or restrictions if you will, governing social behavior and economy, etc. When we obey these laws, we are free. When we do not abide by law, there are consequences. Often consequences limit our freedoms.
All of nature is governed by natural law (e.g. the law of gravity, or the laws of physics). For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. These are natural consequences- part of the natural law. They are not something humans can circumvent. True freedom comes from awareness of consequences to actions and making decisions accordingly, by choosing a desired outcome and not an action in and of itself.
Freedom has existed within boundaries from the beginning. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it was with certain laws. God also granted to Adam and Eve their agency, they were free to choose for themselves. However, when God’s laws were transgressed, there were consequences. (Of course God is loving and merciful, so He gave to Adam and Eve the law of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby sin and death could also be overcome by repentance and obedience.) This principle of freedom within bounds is woven throughout the entirety of Christian doctrine.
Some examples to illustrate this idea are things like, being free to drive a car in accordance with traffic laws. Or being free to interact on social media in accordance with the rules of any particular forum. The freedom to use a licensed product in compliance with stated terms and conditions. Freedom from stress over a test after diligent study. The freedom that come with knowledge and skill after disciplined practice, whether it be in art, music, medicine, science or any form of industry. The freedom of a teenager who has his or her parents’ trust. The freedom of choice when considering options such as universities, after qualifications have been met. Freedom from debt when bills are paid and budgets are followed.
The absence of law, restriction or consequence does not create freedom. Without law there is chaos and anarchy. A society that is truly free understands and reverences this principle. An individual who is truly free is obedient to the rule of law. The pinnacle of freedom is found in the rule of one’s self- mind over body.
I am free as society intends me to be free, when I obey the laws of the land. I am free as God intends me to be free, when I obey His laws.
I love the words to the American hymn “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee.” Particularly appropriate in this context are the lyrics of the fourth verse:
Our fathers’ God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!
America is free when “In God We Trust.” God bless America.