Friday, March 26, 2010

The Proper Use of Freedom

The idea of liberty is an idea that is precious to many Americans.  Our Declaration of Independence states that one of our inalienable rights is that of liberty, and so we understand that liberty is one of the core values of our country.  While we may understand that liberty is an inalienable right, I don’t know if we truly understand what that means.  To be quite honest with you, I wonder at times if I grasp the full meaning of what liberty truly is.  Is liberty simply personal freedom from servitude, oppression, or confinement or is it something more?  What did the founders mean when they chose the word liberty to describe our basic human rights?

I think that might be a topic for another day, because I want to focus on this idea of rights.  Malcolm Muggeridge in a speech that was published in book form under the title The End of Christendom said:
In the much talk today about human rights, we forget that our human rights are derived from the Christian faith.  In Christian terms every single human being, whoever he or she may be, sick or well, clever or foolish, beautiful or ugly, every single human being is loved of his Creator, who has, as the Gospels tell us, counted the hairs of his head.  This Creator cannot see even a sparrow fall to the ground without concern.  Now it s from that concept that our rights derive (p. 19).

I think a big mistake that we make when it comes to talking about freedom is to focus on our rights.  We want to make sure that our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not infringed upon, and in the process we miss the bigger picture.  The bigger picture is that our rights don’t derive from us, but they derive from God’s love for us, and that means that unless we are fighting for the rights of other people we are misusing our rights.  God has not blessed us with certain unalienable rights so that we can live a comfortable life in this world, but so we can move in freedom to love, serve, help, and teach other people. 

This is what the apostle Peter wrote; Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16; ESV).  There is no government in the world that is able to rob us of this most basic inalienable right, the right to serve God.  Our government can tell us what type of toilet we need to have in the bathroom so we don’t use too much water, it can tell us what percentage of our income it can take so it can continue to exist, and it can tell you that you have to go to prison because of a law you supposedly broke, but the government can never keep you from serving God.  Even if the government decided to kill you because of your faith your very death would be an act of service to the Creator.

Yes, it is extremely frustrating to see the United States Government, along with the individual state governments, to disregard the Constitution and build a bigger bureaucracy which intrudes into every area of our lives, but one of the positive ways to push back is to use they freedom we do have.  The more we nurture our freedom the more it will grow.  The first step in this process is start seeing our freedom as a vehicle to help and serve people.  The reason this is the first step is because it reminds us that God has given us freedom, not so we can entertain ourselves to death, but so we can make this world a better place. 

We have certain inalienable rights, and these rights were given to us by our Creator God.  Like all of God’s gifts our rights are not only a blessing to us, but they are a way for us to bless other people.  If we are not using our freedom to love, to help, and to bring hope to the hopeless then we have missed the point of this great gift.  In the end, if we want to hold on to our freedom, we had better learn to use it properly.

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