We live in a country of enormous freedoms-freedom to pray, to live, and to vote in the ways that we choose. Each of these freedoms carries responsibility; our praying, living, and voting must be exercised in service of the common good. A free society cannot remain free unless its citizens choose to accept and actively support this responsibility. Freedom to vote as we choose, in the interest of the common good, requires that we trust the choices of others to also be for the common good. Our Wisconsin Annual Conference focus on civil discourse joins the Wisconsin Council of Churches and other religious and civic organizations in leading the call for mutual respect in our exercise of the freedom to vote as we choose.
We see our freedom to live in the way that we choose, for the benefit of the common good, expressed in countless variety and rich diversity. We are stewards of God's abundance. We are called, gifted, equipped, and sent to proclaim the joy of God's love and to secure the same freedom we enjoy for all citizens and guests in our country. "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land'" (Deuteronomy 15:11); and "The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:34).
Our freedom to pray in the way that we choose, for the common good, aligns perfectly with our Christian identity as the body of Christ. "But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:15-16). We understand the great cost of freedom, the immeasurable sacrifice God modeled so that we might be able to see that we are indeed free to serve others. Prayer is the language of our freedom. Whether we pray to Father, Lord, Mother God, Creator, Savior, or Spirit, Christians live in the freedom given to us by Christ: freedom from fear, from want, from prejudice, and from intolerance. "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).
As Election Day nears, I pray that we-as Christians, United Methodists, and citizens-will exercise our freedom with joy and responsibility. Let us embrace diversity in living, praying, and voting, bringing about the day when all will know the abundance of God's love in mind, body, and spirit. I pray for our country, for our leaders, and for each citizen to exercise freedom in pursuit of the common good.
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).