Whence freedom without responsibility?

On this, the two hundred thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of our country, these United States, as we gather in celebration, would that we think of the ways in which there two categories are always intertwined. For while there may be such a thing as responsibility without freedom, there is no such a thing as freedom without responsibility. Nor is there such a state of utopia highly desired among many because in human life there is no such a thing as freedom from responsibility.

At this intersection, both Saint Paul and the framers of our constitution connect. Paul taught that in Christ we are set free, and yet we are not at liberty to use those freedoms as license for self-indulgence. Any of his epistles stand as the stirring reminder of this reality. While we may be set free in Christ, yet we bear the mantle of responsibility towards the Body of Christ, that is to say Jesus’ Church, and we have the responsibility to live in the power of the Holy Spirit as citizens of that kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. I do not believe that I shall have to cite chapter and verse . . .

In the same vein, the founders of our country remind us that while we may be given the unalienable right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, yet there remains a social dimension. Whether we like it or not, the rights of the individual, while protected, are held in check and balance by the necessity of the greater good. Was it not chief justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who made the observation that an individual may posess freedom of speech, yet the right of the individual to use free speech carries weight of responsibility to the whole?

Freedom of speech does not give a person the right, Holmes observed, to cry “fire” in a crowded theater.

As adolescents hopefully discover in short order, having the keys to the family car is not absolution from responsibility. It is actually the invitation to greater and higher responsibility. For in accepting the freedom of being able to drive, there comes increased responsibility towards family, those who may be passenger in the car, and the other drivers and pedestrians on the road.

The ironic reality is that freedom has a price tag. While the price tag may be different amongst them, whether the venue is driving, or civic participation, or religious moral and ethical areas, yet there remains a common denominator. That denominator is responsibility.

When I celebrate the 4th of July, I always remember to pray for the men and the women of our armed forces. They are the ones whose sacrifices pay the price for the freedom that you enjoy today.


Canon Greg+


About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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