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Raif: Whose words and beliefs do you reflect?

Liberty or freedom?

We as a nation have just celebrated Independence Day — with patriotic songs, parties, booze, food and fireworks. We had a great time, but did we stop to think what each of the above words mean and how they apply to us today?

According to an online dictionary, liberty is mostly used in context to the freedom that’s granted to a person or people in common by the authority. It is doing what one wants but under a legal framework. Liberty deals with privileges that come with independence.

Freedom refers to rights of belongings. It is our ability to act according to our own wishes without any type of external pressures or constraints.

On Thursday, Ron and I watched the PBS celebration of Independence Day. The venue was on part of the National Mall in Washington, which is huge and can accommodate many people at one time. There seemed to be thousands of people dancing, singing, waving flags and having a good time despite the heat. There were many children, including babies in parents’ arms.

For us, the most meaningful musical performance was by a group of former military personnel. They all had been injured in battle. One had artificial legs. Another had a brace on one leg. John Stamos, an actor who was a host of the event, had visited and worked with them for several months while they were in the hospital recuperating. He also served as the backup drummer.

Later in the program, once it was twilight, there was a huge fireworks display that highlighted the Capitol and surrounding areas.

It all was a lot of fun and entertaining. But one day a year is not nearly enough to embrace the meanings of those words above.

We see on TV or read about people, mostly young, who march and chant not only for their rights, but for those of others, shouting out for the rights of the people held in horrible conditions on the border. Others are shouting “fake news” and denouncing the other side. Each has the right under our laws to say what they want, unless it leads to disorder great enough to interrupt the rights of others.

Frankly, I am nonplussed trying to understand how people in our land of freedom can deny those rights to others. It’s true many, if not most, of those at the border are not here legally, at least not yet. But they want legality, even if it is so vehemently denied them by those who see them as troublemakers.

I fail to see how children can be locked in cages, and others who are denied clean water to drink (not that from a toilet), bathe or even wash their hands before they eat.

“Fake news!”, many holler about reports of the conditions that we read or see on TV. It’s easy to make a judgment about a situation without seeing the conditions, which permits us to live our own lives according to our lifestyle and beliefs, even as we deny these basic freedoms to anyone else.

What puzzles me the most are those who claim to be Christians denying the very words of Jesus. I won’t go into those here because there are too many. If you have access to a Bible, read them in all the Gospels.

If you say you are a Christian, then why do you refuse to act like one? Do you somehow think God will forgive you for not following His commands? It’s true there are many people who are unable to carry out all these commands because of physical or mental limitations. But does that keep you from telling others what God’s Word says? Or from praying for all those involved, including yourself, about the beliefs and standards Jesus talks about?

There are two times these beliefs really hit home. The first one is when there were many people and disciples gathered to hear Jesus preach. There were many children there, too, doing what kids do: “misbehaving.” They wanted to get up close to Jesus but were denied. Jesus told the audience to let the little children come to him.

Then there is the story of the Good Samaritan. If you recall, it was the priests who passed by on the other side. The priests represented the people. But they also preached a sermon much different than Jesus did.

So I ask this question: What actions and beliefs do you reflect to others? Yours or God’s?

— Gayle Raif, a Longview resident, is a regular contributor to the Saturday Forum.

Today's Bible verse

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’ ”

John 8:34

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