The Catholic faith teachings freedom is a gift God gives to every person. In this second excerpt from my, TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST series, I continue my examination of the important question: Does God want us to be Free?
You can read the first part of this blog stream by pressing HERE.
LIBERTY IS NOT FREE
The American Revolution was a historic and gruesome struggle for the cause of liberty. People of that day felt freedom was so important, it drove them to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Many mothers and fathers on each side of the Atlantic Ocean lost sons and daughters in the war. Siblings lost siblings; wives lost husbands; in some cases, husbands lost wives. It was devastating for millions.
Tom Brokaw, best known as an American television journalist, wrote the book, The Greatest Generation. The book is a work centering on the incredible heroes who fought in World War II; our nation owes those people a substantial debt. However, people who fought for independence for this nation receive little attention today. We live two and a half centuries after the struggles our founders and heroes endured to build a country that allowed its citizens to live in liberty. There can be no doubt about the authentic greatness of the people who lived during World War II; however, that generation would not have existed had this nation never been formed through the blood, pain, and sacrifices made by the people who fought the American Revolution.
Our existence as a nation did not look obvious when viewed from revolutionary battlefields. We lost many conflicts during the war, and throughout much of the early years, our army was a mess, without enough weapons, uniforms, clothing, shelter, food, or men to help fight. Our first brothers and sisters fought against all the odds, and for a brief time it looked like those who died might have died in vain. However, in the heart of every person is the desire to be free, to choose his or her destiny, to use the gift of free will God gives to every person. Our ancestors nurtured a deep desire for liberty, yet it seems our culture has erased that passion, yet personal freedom does not come free. People from this nation’s early days understood the tenuous nature of liberty, as follows:
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
[James Madison, Speech at the Virginia Convention, 1783]
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” [Samuel Adams, 1779]
Patrick Henry’s speech in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, is well known. The House was trying to decide whether they should mobilize against the British forces. Henry supported facing the British in battle, as the following excerpt from his speech reveals :
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!”—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? 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! [Patrick Henry – 03/23/1775]
FREEDOM IN A FALLEN WORLD?
In this fallen and sinful world, Catholic teachings regarding freedom shows us we remember liberty is a gift, and we must not confuse personal freedom with equality, they are not the same. The Bible teaches God created all humans in His image and likeness; therefore, before God, all people (created in His image and likeness) are equal. We must not confuse being equal before God as being a higher order than the freedom that God gives to every person–for example, Catholic teachings about freedom stresses every person has the capacity to do good or evil.
At the root of every person and soul is the God-given right to be free, to choose our way, whether that way is ultimately sinful or righteous. The classic Biblical example of this is the Garden of Eden (cf. Genesis 1-2). God ordered Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose to disobey God after falling under the trickery of Satan. They ate of that tree, which bound them to the consequence of physical death and the required physical death of every person after them. A critical point in the account (which many pay little attention) is God gave Adam and Eve full freedom. They had the liberty to choose good or evil. They chose evil by disobeying God—we have seen the horrors that have fallen upon humanity since that fateful choice by our first parents. Ultimately, God desired paradise for Adam and Eve and gave them a significant paradise in the Garden, yet sin came into the world through free will since God respects our freedom—He will not stop us from doing evil. The Lord wants our love and acceptance to be a free choice. In the New Testament, we see the importance of individual freedom:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
[Galatians 5:1 RSV-CE – Italics added]
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. [2 Corinthians 3:17 RSV-CE – Italics added]
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. [Romans 8:18-21 RSV-CE – Italics added]
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” [John 8:31-32 RSV-CE – italics added]
Bible Gateway: https://www.biblegateway.com/
As an example, revealing what God desires for us, think about the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. God set His Chosen People free from tyranny and slavery brought upon them by Pharaoh. However, many people do not know that at one time in history, Egyptians had embraced the Jewish people and had welcomed them into their land; the Jews were not always slaves of the Egyptians. Over time, Egyptian rulers forgot history; they enslaved the Jews. God desired freedom for His people, for it is only through true freedom can a person rise to the heights that God intends for them. In that account, we see that freedoms can be lost slowly, without notice by those being enslaved. The Catholic faith has always held (in its teachings) that God desires freedom for us!
Thank you for reading,