“To know how to free oneself is nothing;
the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.”
André Gide

As we gear up for Independence Day celebrations this week, I am grateful for so many of the freedoms that we enjoy, including freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of petition, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. I’m also grateful for concepts articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the founding document of the United States, including how we’ve all been created equal and possess the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a Christian, I understand that my rights as a U.S. citizen are subject to my primary commitment to Jesus as Lord and to my ultimate allegiance to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These commitments cause me to situate the freedoms I cherish within the larger context of my responsibilities to my earthly family, my church community, my country, the larger human family, and God Almighty. In the inevitable tensions I feel between personal freedoms and corporate responsibilities, I seek to remember Paul’s wisdom in Galatians 5:13: “…do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Christian author Paula Harrington wrote a reflection piece recently that feels somehow appropriate for us as we consider the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

If you don’t feel like going to church, then don’t go…for you.

Go for the struggling.
Go for the broken.
Go for those grieving the love of their lives.
Go for those raising children.
Go for those who haven’t heard from their children for too long.
Go for those who long for children.
Go for those fighting addictions.
Go for those whose marriages are on the brink of disaster.
Go for the kids and teens who are wrestling with adult-sized problems.
Go for the college students who are overwhelmed with the paths before them.
Go for the one awaiting test results that have the power to change their future.

And when you’re there, don’t let anyone sit alone. Smile. Shake a hand or give a hug. Talk about Jesus. The church needs you and once you’re there, God will remind you there is no place you belong more. You matter. You are loved. You are needed. Tell others they are, too. That’s Church. 

Harrington is reflecting on regularly participating in a worshiping church community, but I believe the implications also radiate beyond church assemblies to the people we encounter throughout the week. May God help us as we continue our pursuit of being a “for-others” community, using cherished freedoms to bless others!

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall