John 8:32, 36
Americans possess a great amount of “pride” in the freedoms exercised and protected. But what is freedom? Webster’s defines it as “ the quality or state of being free: as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; independence; the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something.” The Hebrew and Greek words used in Scripture carry the same ideas, each dependent on the context.
Certainly freedom is a high blessing from the Lord – when it is understood accurately and applied justly. If you miss these key elements, freedom can become a twisted monstrosity that is far removed from the traditional and biblical meaning.
There are two primary viewpoints about the exercise of freedom.
- The world perceives that freedom is the ability to do whatever one desires. The ancient Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero wrote that “Freedom is participation in power … Freedom is the power to live as you will.” This appears to be the pre-eminent view of the American populace, i. e. “I should have the right to do whatever I please.” The flaws and dangers of this view are obvious. An individual’s rights and liberties are not without boundaries. E. g., you cannot exercise your freedom to the violation another individual’s freedom. 1) I have the right of free speech, but I don’t have the right to walk into a public place and scream “Fire, fire!” if there is no fire. 2) I don’t have the freedom to break just laws, force my opinion on others, or to behave in sordid ways in public. We must overcome the idea that freedom is the right for every man to do what is right in his own eyes. That’s not freedom – that’s bondage that, if left unchecked, will lead to anarchy and tyranny. Scriptural freedom – American freedom – was never intended to protect lawlessness and decadence.
- Others rightly believe that freedom is not unrestricted power to live as you will, but as you ought. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “Freedom is not the right to do what we want, but what we ought. Let us have faith that right makes might and in that faith let us; to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” Philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Freedom! A fine word when rightly understood. What freedom would you have? What is the freedom of the most free? To act rightly!”
Our founding fathers were well aware that without the Christian faith, there would be no true, lasting freedom. Our founders were men of faith that knew God would honor obedience to His Word. Obedience to God always results in the overall good and protection of the rights and privileges of any society committed to them.
John Adams, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
James Madison, “Religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government.”
Herein lies the vital change – the perversion of the meaning of freedom. Americans want the freedom to do whatever they desire without any restraints. Genuine freedom is liberty to do what we ought to do in the best interest of others; secular freedom is the liberty to do whatever we want to do – in spite of others. Sadly, the latter view has had much judicial support and the strength of a secular state. Our Laws were not established or intended to protect an individual’s depravity, and such a lamentable perversion of “freedom” cannot last. Americans have forgotten that God establishes Law and is the Author of liberty – not the state.
Without the Christian faith there will be no true freedom, and the gracious blessings that accompany it. Scripture warns, nations that forget God are turned into Hell, cf. Psalm 9:17. World history confirms the warning, and our founding fathers warned the generations about maintaining our Christian heritage:
“Those people not governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”
“Without morals a Republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion … are undermining the solid morals, the best security for the duration of free government.”
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
We must do all we can to awaken the sleeping and keep our heritage alive. “Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light; protect us by Thy might, Great God our King!”