Freedom and Responsibility

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.”  

(Proverbs 10:7, NRSV)

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How will you be remembered? What will be the defining accomplishments of your life? What legacy will you leave for those who come after you? Is there any contribution you are making that will touch the lives of those you’ve never even met?

Memorial Day is a time for us to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we celebrate as Americans. It’s an important day as we recall that people we never knew and possibly some we did, were willing to do their part in extending into the future the principle of “liberty and justice for all” through their sacrifice. Memorial Day is important to observe because it is dangerous to disconnect sacrifice and responsibility from freedom and independence. As a matter of fact, I would say the degree to which we are free is directly proportional to our willingness to take responsibility and be held accountable for our actions.

As a teenager with a driver’s license and a car, I wanted more freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and with whom I wanted. My parents demanded that I first demonstrate responsibility before they were willing to grant me the freedom to do as I wished. They were linking freedom and responsibility in a life lesson whose truth is borne out on a daily basis for me even now as an adult. I am free to do whatever I want as long as I’m willing to be responsible for my actions and can accept the consequences and the costs of my actions.

I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had to make any significant sacrifices as a result of the freedom under which I live. Most Americans have had a similar experience. Even so, I’ve tried not to take those freedoms lightly and to remember that others have been required to give more. That realization produces a spirit of gratitude.

As a follower of Jesus, the costs of being a disciple have not been too demanding on me either. I recognize there are other Christians around the world for whom there is a significant risk for them to worship and to practice their faith. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them. Would it surprise you to know that those same Christians frequently pray for those of us who can worship without persecution? They pray for us because they believe without persecution, we will have a hard time developing faith. It’s true!

We can choose how we will be remembered as Christians and as citizens of the United States. On this Memorial Day, I give thanks for those U.S. soldiers and for those Christians around the world who have demonstrated the lengths to which a faithful person will go to live out their faith and their principles. Now, may I do the same.

Rev. Dale Cohen
Senior Pastor of Canterbury United Methodist Church


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