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  • Writer's pictureGCI Auckland

What should we do with our freedom?

As the world marks the passing away of Nelson Mandela, surely that is a question we should ask. Mandela wrote "with freedom come responsibilities", and his liberated nation of South Africa is still coming to terms with those responsibilities. He knew that the end of apartheid was the beginning of another long walk. Many nations have special days on which they celebrate their liberty. In the USA it is the 4th July. The French sing and dance on Bastille Day, the 14th July. In India Independence Day is the 15th August. In South Africa itself Freedom Day is the 27th April, the anniversary of the first non-racial elections in 1994. For most countries freedom from the past has led to freedom to hold democratic elections, to people having a say about their country's future. British philosopher Isaiah Berlin wrote about “negative” and “positive” freedom. To him negative freedom meant freedom from the interference of others. Wars have been fought to gain this negative freedom. Positive freedom is described as freedom to self-determine. Does this mean that everyone can do as he or she wishes? Berlin, in his essay Two Concepts of Liberty, commented, “the liberty of some must depend on the restraint of others”. True liberty does not remove responsibility. We still have to behave responsibly as free citizens. The biblical writer, Paul, said something similar. He explained that Christ offered his life to make us free, so that all of us can shake off the shackles of sin. "Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom...But offer yourselves to the ways of God" that "set you free to live openly in his freedom!" (Romans 6:18, the Message Bible) In other words, as Mandela said, "with freedom come responsibilities". What should we do with our freedom? Let's celebrate it, and use it well.

James Henderson

(this blog entry is from

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