Blog/CYM Blog Freedom by Perry Rihl “For I know well the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not your woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”– Jeremiah 29:11 “I came that they might have life and have it to the full”– John 10:10 It’s no secret that our freedom is important to us. We use it as this huge umbrella under which we place all things we deem sacred. I have the freedom to say, think, consume, and go where I want. I can practice my faith in the manner of my choosing and spend time with others who think and believe as I do. My wife and I can raise our kids in the way we see fit, and we don’t have to be compelled or coerced to deviate from that plan. I have the freedom to make mistakes, to progress personally and professionally, and to live in a way that is mostly unimpeded by those around me. Freedom is a good, beautiful, and holy gift. Freedom, simply put, is the God-given ability to discern and choose, that which is good and beautiful. We have the freedom to do what is moral and upright. This comes with the understanding that all choices have two sides, and we make mistakes. We have the ability to do the wrong thing only because we have the freedom to do the right or choose not to do it. Our laws are based on this belief. There is a right and a wrong, and our society is generally governed toward the morally right. Laws are meant to limit us only insofar as they punish what is hurtful and sinful while allowing us the freedom and the ability to do what is correct. This is the freedom given to us by the Father in our very creation. He does not force Himself or His precepts on us. Our Lord invites and calls us to true freedom by living in accordance with our original design; to love and worship Him and His creation. Certainly, there are consequences to choosing against this invitation, just as there are positive consequences to saying “yes.” But God never forces us into anything or condemns us to punishment. He lovingly gives us what our heart desires, to be with Him forever, or to be without Him forever. It’s our decision, and in this freedom, we are allowed to live truly free, full, faithful, and fruitful lives. It is, however, when we begin to confuse the holy and beautiful gift of freedom with complete license, and allow others to do the same. This is when we fall into a trap of moral relativism and social encampment where we are allowed to live and act in a way we see as beneficial, so long as what you believe doesn’t offend me and what I believe doesn’t offend you. Somehow, having the freedom to do well has been warped to include not having to be questioned or challenged. With the help of the megaphone that is the Internet, people’s lives, careers, and good names can be taken from them to serve a vague governing notion of tolerance. This is not what our God intended for us! We are not meant to act as animals do, acting on instinct and overindulgence toward the things we want and lashing out at those who impede or challenge us. We are meant to choose Him and the gifts He has presented to us with joy and self-control. He invited us to live life to the fullest by choosing He who is the fullness of life. We are meant to fall in love with Him and His commands, allowing them to shape and purify us for freedom that is beyond this world. We are intended to share the goodness of Jesus with a loving and understanding demeanor, not with anger and delusions of self-pity. It is precisely when we allow freedom to stray from the hands of God and into the realms of politics and shifting social trends that it becomes broken and distorted. As we meditate on the idea of freedom this Independence Day, first thank God that we are alive and have the freedom to choose the good. Thank God for giving us His Son and the Church who constantly call us to holiness and God’s mercy. Finally, ask the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to discern between what is good and holy and what falls short. Pray fervently for the understanding that nothing can remove us from the hands of the God who formed and shaped us in His image. Nothing can take away our freedom.