Like the rest of the world, I have been fascinated watching from afar all the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. I am sure that my limited view (afforded by the media) only captures a slice of all the issues at hand. No doubt governments, rulers, protestors and sideline watchers all have their own agendas. It is hard to know who to cheer for.
I did see a very interesting quote in an online article in USA Today (March 11, 2011). It seems that the phrase “Degage” meaning “get out” was the verb most readily used in the Tunisian revolution. It has been replaced with a phrase that means, “We can say what we want.” But it is confusing the people of Tunisia; they are not sure what exactly they have won.
A marketing manager, Sami Ounalli remarked, “We don’t have the habit of democracy, we have to learn freedom.”
When I saw that comment, “We don’t have the habit of democracy” I couldn’t help but think of the challenges such freedoms bring to a free society. Even right now in our country, we are wrestling with the competing constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.
Consider the conflicting emotions associated with those heartless “twits” (my words/my assessment) who attend the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. They are the ones that under the guise of spiritual maturity protest at military funerals. And their right to do so was recently affirmed by the Supreme Court. If we affirm free speech, that right has to apply to everyone in a society. But that is a tough one to swallow.
From a biblical perspective, every freedom carries with it a commensurate responsibility. Consider the words of Galatians 5:13-15:
“You my 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. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other.”
I think Sami is right. Even in a country that has enjoyed the rights associated with democracy for over 200 years, we need to “learn (how to do) freedom.” And as Christians, the onus is especially on us to make sure we exercise our freedoms wisely.
Paul has us focused in the right direction, as he urges us to not indulge the flesh, but rather to serve one another in love.
This week as you watch the plight of folks struggling for freedoms around the world, be careful to honor the freedoms you already have. We can all do so by looking for some simple ways to express care and compassion to those around us. Feed someone who is hungry. Clean someone’s house that can’t do it for themselves. Buy a gas card for a struggling college kid. Practice the “habit of democracy” by loving someone else as yourself.
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel