India today celebrates its 68th Independence Day. Many of us weren’t there when tears of joy streamed through the eyes of our fathers who witnessed the first flag hoisting of Independent India. It was a freedom they fought for and obtained with a price. Freedom became possible because a few stepped forward to voluntary sacrifice their lives so that the others will enjoy the fruits of their struggle. The Independence Struggle was not about kings fighting for their kingdoms. Those were ordinary Indians, like you and I, that fought in ways that took the world by surprise. The world of political struggle perhaps had never heard of the possibility of non-violent resistance; but, our fathers saw it spiritually and overcame evil with good (cf. Rom.12:21). Evil can never overcome evil. Mahatma Gandhi understood that “an eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” But, light dispels darkness; that is the absolute quality of light. Our fathers also knew that freedom within precedes and guides our struggle for freedom without. That is what satyagraha was truly about. Satyagraha means the holding on to and insistence on truth. Truth is freedom. Plato said, “The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.” Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). Deception, violence, and selfish ambition only lead to greater entanglements. Peace comes through the orderliness of truth within. Where truth governs, there is peace, justice, and liberty.
However, freedom always has a cost, and the cost of freedom is sacrifice. Sacrifice means to give up what rightly belongs to us so that others may benefit from the fruits of what we have worked and paid for. We cannot sacrifice what does not belong to us. For instance, to respect other people’s boundaries is not sacrifice, it is justice and right-living. What comes under someone else’ boundary belongs to that person; what comes under ours belongs to us. Certainly, a person who chooses to not pick-pocket another person is not sacrificing his desires or opportunities; he is only living right and abstaining from self-destructive crime. In fact, to abstain from evil is to preserve both our freedom and the freedom of others. But, when we say that the cost of freedom is sacrifice, we are talking about sacrificial love. Sacrificial love is the rule of freedom within and freedom without. The Greek Bible uses the word agape to express it and sums up the discussion in a few aphorisms:
Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:10 NKJ)
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal 5:14 NKJ)
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. (1Jn 4:18 NKJ)
Jesus prescribed the Golden Rule: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 7:12 NKJ)
Love for others will lift us to see beyond ourselves; it helps us see and understand the plight of people around us; it helps us to look through their eyes and to feel their pain. Only a person who has agape love can be a good neighbor, a good citizen, and a true friend – the friend who gives his life for his friend (Jn.15:13). Freedom is not just the ability to have and possess; it is the opportunity to give and help those in need.
Our fathers, who fought for freedom, didn’t just fight for themselves; if they did so, they wouldn’t have risked their lives. They fought in love, as true neighbors of each other and as true friends, ready to give their lives for the people of India. They understood that if they didn’t step out, change was impossible. Someone has to take the lead in order for others to follow. A good neighbor cannot be indifferent to things around. Plato said it well: “The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs, is to be ruled by evil men.” David knew it: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” (Psa 12:8 NIV)
Today, we are in danger of greater evils that are warring to destroy the foundations of our freedom. There are forces of bitterness, resentment, lust, promiscuity, materialism, commercialism, and fake heroism that aim to destroy peace in communities, in families, and in the nation. There are intense roads being built for desocialization of society, deindividuation of individuals, and dehumanization of humans. Cries for freedom well up for a time, then die away in the cry and clamor for individual pursuits. There is decreasing respect for the concept of sacrifice, because sacrifice is held in suspicion and the monster of materialism paints “sacrifice” in bleak pictures. There have been those who pretended to be sacrificing and used this as a tool to tap in material possessions. Also, there are false concepts of sacrifice that lure the youth to violence, to desocialization, and dehumanization. They live far away in the jungles or meet in secret places, hidden from the eyes of society, and suddenly turn to monstrous, inhumane deeds. Haven’t the Standford Prison Experiments proven that violence appears just and right in cases where other humans are no longer regarded as persons, as neighbors, as friends?
But, don’t these have a cause? Don’t those who turn to violence within certain secret societies in cities and villages too have a cause? They cry for justice, they cry for freedom; however, we know that justice and freedom have a cost. The cost is not destructive violence; but, the cost is sacrificial love.
True liberty is not lawless; it conforms to the perfect Law of Liberty (James 1:25); because, the purpose of the commandment is a community bound by love, in purity of heart, good conscience, and sincere faith (1Tim.1:5). Also, true liberty is the only condition for spiritual transformation, to become what God has called us to be (2Cor.3:17-18).
The story of our Independence Struggle should inspire us. It must inspire us to get beyond our personal ambitions, our personal grudges, our personal dreams; it must inspire us to combat evil with good; it must inspire us to look into the perfect law of liberty (not the law that divides and discriminates, but the law that gives justice and freedom); it must inspire us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to be a true friend.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. – Thomas Jefferson
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. – Thomas Jefferson
But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (Jam 1:25 NLT)
But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord — who is the Spirit — makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2Co 3:16-18 NLT)
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. (Jam 2:8 NKJ)