My family, I mean my immediate family living here in the US, have now been permanent residents of the US (Green Card holders) for more than 5 years which means we are now eligible to become US citizens. We are exploring the entire process, including the citizenship test. Mary and I are still eligible to vote in Australian federal and state elections but it is now almost 10 years since we lived there, and we believe that it is important to vote where we live, and that this is part of our civic duty and responsibility.
In our home we often do some comparing and contrasting between the three countries in which we have lived – Australia, New Zealand and the United States. All of them are relatively free countries – where there is the guarantee of freedom of speech, and freedom in the practice of one’s religion. I thank God for that especially as I hear of religious persecution in many other countries. I think especially in the US there is much focus on the word ‘freedom’, and celebration of it. Australia and New Zealand do not have ‘independence’ days because they are not yet independent. The image of an English queen appears on their coins and the British Union Jack appears on their flags. I think that the US flag is a much more unifying symbol – around independence and freedom.
I realize there are many aspects to freedom, and many thoughts come to mind when that word is read or spoken. Some may think of the freedom for self expression. In most US public schools students are free to choose what they will wear, with some rules for modesty. (In Australia and New Zealand public schools have a school uniform.) In the US, in most states, there is freedom to talk on a cell phone while driving, and freedom to not have to wear a helmet while riding a cycle. Digging deeper , some may think of the four freedoms listed by President Franklin D Roosevelt in 1941 – Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. I like this list, and how it was depicted by Norman Rockwell. There is a lot to give thanks for and to reflect on with those 4 freedoms.
Try googling the word ‘freedom’ in the Bible. Every Reformation Day, the Gospel reading concludes with:”If the Son (Jesus) sets you free, then you will be really free.”(John 8:38) Another favorite of mine is: “You, my sisters and brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature: rather, serve one another in love.” The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14) There is plenty of opportunity to exercise that freedom here in the U.S. and also to neighbors further afield.
- Pastor Tim