“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Today we celebrate the gift of Civil liberty, a tremendous blessing from God. If I were to come from another country and ask you to sum up what American is all about in the fewest amount of words, what would you say? Most would say “Freedom.” But what is freedom?Can you give me a working definition? The number one answer I get is: “The ability to do what I want.” I then ask, “What is anarchy? Isn’t anarchy the ability to do whatever you want?”
Is freedom anarchy? Come to America and break things. Rob, kill and plunder others? Steal from stores? Set buildings on fire? Absolutely not. Then what is freedom? Is it living under laws that we collectively make? Democracy? What happens when you find yourself in the minority? When the majority votes to take away your guns, your hard earned finances? What is Civil Liberty? What is Freedom?
Edmund Burke, a contemporary of the founding fathers in 1791 put it this way:
“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; the less there is within the more there must be without. It’s ordained in the eternal constitution of things that me of intemperate minds cannot be free, their passions for their fetters (chains).”
To the degree that a man or woman is self governing and keeps their passions and appetites in check, is to the degree to which they don’t need outside forces to contain their wayward behavior. Whose value system do we use to determine where those lines are drawn? Historically, Christianity. Lest you doubt, Google and read the US Supreme Court decision “Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892).” But whyChristianity?
The Apostle Paul writing in the book of Romans, Chapter 13, verses 9-10, sums it up:
“The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Emphasis added)
Christianity holds that keeping others’ best interests in mind in love, rather than self, is the ideal. Freedom has never been the ability to do anything you want, but what is right. True freedom is to view your rights through the lens of not hurting your neighbor. Maintaining that other oriented focus rather than a self/centered focus is the foundation of responsibility. Because I love my family, I go to work to provide and take care of my children when they’re sick. Because I love my neighbor, I’m sensitive to their right to quiet in the middle of the night. I rally around them when they’re going through a tough time. I place my life in harms way to defend them if need be.
Conversely, If I place my self above others, my world revolves around me. You are responsible to give me what I want, to satisfy my desires. We seldom talk about it, but the highest law of the land, our Constitution, begins with theresponsibilities of living in community. They set the context for individual rights mentioned later in the document:
“We the people of the United States … In order to perform a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and to secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the. United States of America.”(emphasis added)
Every right existed only if it fulfilled one of these responsibilities. Truly free individuals take fearless ownership of their lives and examine them against the standard of loving their neighbor. They come to the realization they are born self centered. They are guilty of hurting others and have not fully lived up to God’s command to love. They take responsibility and confess that to the God of love who made them. They ask Him to forgive them. They embrace the most other-oriented act that has ever been offered in humanity: the death of Jesus Christ who loved others so much that He took responsibility for their sin and selfishness. Truly free individuals take fearless ownership of their lives and examine them against the standard of loving their neighbor. Click To Tweet
Jesus paid the penalty for it: death. Why? So that the objects of His love could learn to love others in like manner. Inviting God’s love to flow through them others:
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17)
True Independence Day is really dependance day; Crying out to God to help us love others in a radical Heaven honoring way daily. A nation of individuals doing that is truly free.