The Proper Use of Both Spiritual & National Liberty
On November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, opened his famous Gettysburg Address with these words, “Four-score and seven years ago, (now 230 years ago) our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…” President Lincoln was referring, of course, the birth of our great nation.
On July 4, 1776, The United States of America was born. As Americans and as Christians, we have been blessed by God to live here. We have freedom from tyranny and the constitutional right to worship God “in spirit and in truth…” (John 4:24)
Most people in this world do not have this same privilege – true freedom of religion. We often take for granted that which our brethren throughout history have never had. It was not until the Constitution of the United States (June 21, 1788) and the Bill of Rights (December 15, 1791) was adopted that a nation of people had complete freedom of religion. The First Amendment to the Constitution states,
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble….”
Before this (even in some parts of the United States), there was the concept of an official state religion. For instance, the official church of Great Britain was the church of England (Anglican church); in Italy, France and Spain, it was the Roman Catholic church.
Many of those who opposed the religion of their respective homelands and were persecuted for it, (such as the Puritans) came to this continent and established colonies where they could practice their religion freely. The descendants of these religiously persecuted people wanted a guarantee that no single denomination or religious body could be declared an official religion of the United States. They wanted to insure that the kind of religious persecutions their forefathers had endured in Europe would not take place on American soil. It was out of this constitutional freedom that the American restoration movement was born, resulting in the restoration of the Lord’s church.
We often take for granted that which many of our brethren in other countries do not have – freedom from religious persecution! Even still today, many members of the Lord’s church live in countries where they have no constitutional right to practice their religious beliefs. What a struggle they must face each and every day of their lives!
Even though some do not have religious freedom, all Christians, from the First Century to the present have had spiritual freedom and liberty in Christ Jesus. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed…” (John 8:32, 36). “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Galatians 5:1) With His own blood, Christ bought for us freedom from bondage in sin (Revelation 1:5; Acts 20:28), freedom from the burdens that a life in sin brings and freedom from the sentence of spiritual death in sin. (Romans 6:23)
In this country, all men and women enjoy national freedom. By our constitution, all men and women have the legal right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. While Americans are a nationally free people, but by and large, are not a spiritually free people, in the sense that Christ meant.
Members of the Lord’s church who live in this great nation have two types of liberty, spiritual and national. We should never allow either type of freedom to be used as an excuse in forsaking doing the will of the Father or to use it for an excuse to do what is wrong. “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh….” (Galatians 5:13a) Yet that is what so many people in our nation today have done with their lives. Rather than in freedom serving their fellow man, many today use that “liberty for a cloke of maliciousness…” (1Peter 2:16a) Read Romans 1:18-32 and see what results when a people turn away from God! “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34).
1Peter 2:16 and Galatians 5:13 implicitly state, that rather than serving the flesh or in otherwise sinning, we must use it “as the servants of God” and “by love serve one another.” Our country today has a spiritual sickness; a disease that has no political or physical cure; an ailment that no medical doctor, lawyer or politician can alleviate. Only the Christ has the answers to the problems besetting this country. It is up to Christians, as servants of God, to lovingly, compassionately, teach the gospel to a lost and dying world, that all men might come to know the healing that only the Great Physician can give. In carrying out this commission, we truly “by love serve one another.”