By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought.
We are called to use our freedom in ways that liberate others. We are called to be peace in the face of war, strife, and violence, and we are called to be the face of Jesus to all we encounter—even when others show distrust, hate, and indifference to who we are and what we are about. Our work seems never to be done.
Sadly, we continually face the trials of the opposite of liberty in ways and in forms that we never thought possible. Abuse, bullying, hunger, and oppression—challenge us constantly. The need for human compassion and kindness screams for our attention. All the while, we must pay careful attention to the ways in which we encounter others and act as the face of Him who loved us first. While the way in which we meet these challenges is complex and convoluted, the “old school” way prevails and, person-by-person, we triumph over oppression in different ways each and every moment across this great land of ours.
One of the better ways to unite in our common cause is to celebrate. July 4th is just one of these occasions; Independence Day is the holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We remember 1776, when our founding father and eventual president, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the famous document which listed the colonists’ grievances against King George III to justify the colonies’ split from England to become an independent nation.
Independence Day celebrates the birth of our country and the work of those first men and women who dared to speak out against the laws and values that they did not believe in. Independence Day means celebrating, remembering and honoring those who gave their lives for our freedom and happiness. We should never forget those who gave their lives in service to our country, and us, protecting the values that we hold dear. Nor should forget those who currently serve our nation in the same pursuit. However much we abhor war and violence, we support those who protect us, and we honor their bravery in stepping forward and leaving family and all forms of comfort to make certain that our rights are protected.
The Declaration of Independence proclaims “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.” While we are able to live our lives in peace and with protection, there are many who still remain chained by oppression.
As we celebrate this patriotic summer holiday, I ask that you take the time to remember not only those who gave their lives for our great country. I ask that you remember those individuals who have quietly performed God’s work of liberating people from the chains of untold oppression. You who have worked to protect children and vulnerable adults and liberate them away from danger—we sing your praises.