1. Freedom Possible Only Through Sacrifice
On the occasion of India’s 75th independence day, let us remember and honor the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of people to secure India’s freedom – and many more who continue to sacrifice their lives to protect and sustain that freedom. In many ways, the struggle for freedom is a constant ongoing battle at various levels. It is important to celebrate its successes, especially significant ones like India’s independence in 1947.
1.1. Natural Human Rights Achieved Through Sacrifice
We are all made in the image of God, with God-given capabilities and responsibilities. To be able to freely express ourselves as God’s image bearers, while it is a natural right of every human being, is also a constant struggle, invariably involving a lot of sacrifices to obtain, protect and sustain freedom on an ongoing basis. Indian people, government, law, constitution, and justice system are continuing to protect that freedom (in addition to the right to live without being attacked by foreign invaders and criminals).
1.2. Anything of Value Needs Sacrifice
Freedom, progress, or anything of value, always seems to have a price to be paid – often the lives of people. When Jesus fought against the religious control/enslavement of people (by hypocritical religious folks) and empowered the people, he paid the price with torturous death on the cross.
2. Freedom of Conscience
Freedom consists of the freedom to explore truth, religion, philosophy, faith, science, technology, entrepreneurship, art, entertainment, culture, build careers in work/professions, etc.
2.1. Not Just Freedom of Religious Ritual
Talking specifically about religion, the British rule in India offended various religious sentiments with impunity. Most of the British officials are “Christians” – at least in name. Did the British rule in India violate the freedom of conscience of Indian followers of Jesus also? (even though many Indians may have come to know the historical Jesus during the British rule)?. The answer is yes because following Jesus is not about observing some rituals of religion or attending a specific kind of building for worship, often imposed by human tradition.
Freedom of conscience is the freedom to rightly, freely, and continuously explore the depths of truth, of what is right/good – it is about discovering/finding meaning and purpose. Even those who have found that Jesus is the ultimate answer for this, still need the freedom to explore the depths of what it truly means to follow Jesus, to critically evaluate and contradict the human traditions of the church, to expose hypocrisy, to bring abusers to justice, to enrich the faith through our unique and diverse cultural experiences/contexts, freedom to learn from diverse cultures, etc.
3. Fulfiling Duties and Responsibilities
So we pay tribute and honor the nation and the countless sacrifices. As Jesus said in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
3.1. First Commandment
The first commandment given by God to humans is to take care of the creation and fulfill various responsibilities which include families, community, workplace, nation, culture, art, nature, animals, etc (often called the cultural mandate). Our responsibilities should reflect in our honesty and dedication in the workspace, responsibilities in the family, community, nation, etc.
As the National Pledge of India says, “I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage”.
3.2. Greatest Commandment
Not to forget the greatest commandment to love God with all heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. It is based on the fact that God created everyone in His image. If you truly love God, you will love His children. That is the practical evidence of your love for God. If not, it is easy to claim to love God, for all the wrong reasons.
As the National Pledge of India says, “All Indians are my brothers and sisters… I shall give respect to my parents, teachers, and all the elders, and treat everyone with courtesy”.
3.3. Proclaim Values and Hope
The ultimate strength and well-being of a nation are its moral values and the continued hope for the future. The National Pledge of India concludes: “To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well-being and prosperity alone lies my happiness”.
What is the source of values and hope which are essential for our well-being?
Considered India’s ‘Father of the Nation’, Gandhi did not consider Christ to be unique (as Christians do) but considered him one of the greatest teachers (https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/gandhi_christ.html, https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/mahatma-gandhi-and-sermon-on-the-mount.html). A few quotes from Gandhi:
“What does Jesus mean to me? To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.”. “Jesus lived and died in vain if He did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love.”.
“Jesus, a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
“Jesus was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence.”
3.4. Are Values Imaginary or Real?
Hope for the future is essential for healthy/purposeful/meaningful living. The great teachers and philosophers of the world have done a great job exploring and explaining such things. We don’t have to necessarily get into a contest of whose teachings are more valuable etc as long as we evaluate and approach with integrity/honesty, and perhaps recognize that God’s nature is the source of objective morality.
The life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, many would argue, have taken the question of values and hope to an altogether different and new level. In a sense, Jesus was killed, like many others in history, for standing for truth, justice, and righteousness. The resurrection of Jesus means that values are not just some nice imaginary things to keep each other happy temporarily (nor is it the ‘opiate of the masses’ as Karl Marx might say) but have eternal significance – with the hope of new life, a new creation (Revelation 21-22) – taking hope to its absolute pinnacle in reality – practically and objectively, even beyond death.