In 1775, almost 239 years ago, Patrick Henry stood before the Virginia assembly and declared, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Our country is almost 239 years old. If one symbol represents the United States of America it would be the Statue of Liberty. If one word summarized America it would be freedom. That’s what our nation stands for and our military is fighting and defending for.
As a military community we echo the words of Harry S. Truman who said, “Freedom is still expensive. It still costs money. It still costs blood. It still calls for courage and endurance, not only in Soldiers, but in every man and woman who is free and who is determined to remain free.”
We resonate with John F. Kennedy when he said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay for any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Many have paid the hefty price, and many American men and women are continuously paying the price for freedom in the global conflicts we currently are in. And yet, we’ve forgotten what it means to be free and what that freedom entails. Somewhere along the way, many of us have become confused about freedom. Many of us think that freedom means being able to do whatever we please or want. That however is libertinism which can become a terrible thing when what we want comes at the expense of or is harmful to others.
George Washington reminds us, “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined.” Bill Maher observed, “We have the Bill of Rights. What we need is a bill of responsibilities.” George Bernard Shaw comments, “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” People with freedom in mind do their duty and take responsibility for their actions. They respect others and give respect to themselves.
Believe it or not, our freedom has the roots in faith. Our nation’s founding members believed that we are accountable ultimately to the God who created us, and they recorded their thoughts in the Declaration of Independence. The latter document testifies, “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.”
The scripture tells us, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14.
We are free, not to do as we please or whatever we want, but to do what is right. Furthermore, the God, whom our founding members believed in, gives us the same power to be successful in our attempts at doing what is right. Instead of the self-serving and destructive things that we naturally are inclined to do, God encourages us to possess the desire to produce the fruits of freedom in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
John Foster Dulles reminds us, “Our institutions of freedom will not survive unless they are constantly replenished by the faith that gave them birth.” May we look to our faith, practice and grow in faith, and in the God of those who have gone before us as we reflect on why we are so blessed with freedom and our great nation.