On this day after so many of us remembered and gave thanks for the freedoms our country has long held and celebrated, I share with you a brief word from one of the most courageous defenders of religious freedom I’ve ever known, Rev. Dr. James Dunn. You’ve heard me reference this former professor and mentor a number of times, and a number of you share the same love for him and admiration for his unmatched legacy that I do. Before he served as a professor of Christianity and public policy at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Dr. Dunn was the 25-year director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, our partner organization working in Washington to “defend and extend religious liberty for all.”
In the spirit of last Sunday’s worship reminding us of our Baptist heritage and its bent towards freedom (particularly Bible freedom, soul freedom, church freedom, and religious freedom!), read now these words from Dr. Dunn:
“Freedom is not absolute. No one is ‘free as a bird.’ Only a bird is free as a bird. We are not free to deny basic freedoms to others. When anyone’s freedom is denied, everyone’s freedom is endangered. We are not free without responsibility. Freedom and responsibility are like two sides of a coin, inseparable. No matter how thin it is sliced, the coin of responsible freedom still has two sides. God made us able to respond, response able, responsible, and if responsible, free.”
– James M. Dunn at the Linfield College Commencement, May 30, 1999
As we remember and give thanks to God for our country this week, might we remember that the source of our deepest freedom, the origin of our first citizenship, the root of our strongest ties comes not through our country, as grand as it may be, but through God in Christ. For in the words of the Apostle Paul: “for freedom, Christ has set us free!”
May we live into that freedom & responsibility with bold love and boundless compassion!
Together in the work of Love,
Photo credit: Wake Forest University School of Divinity