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Posts Tagged ‘Freedom’

A colleague of mine came to me with a legitimate concern and question. He prefaced his question by saying that he had no desire to argue but had a great desire to understand the meaning of a sign he had seen several times lately. He referred to a discussion we had earlier in the week, remarking that I seemed to have strong feelings about the subject. Before I reveal the question or my answer, I would like to say that I expressed gratitude for the demeanor of my colleague and friend to want to have substantive, civil discussion. That is rare these days. We seem to not be able to agree to disagree and give calm, reasoned answers to fellow citizens and human beings on controversial subjects.

The sign said, “Stop Socialism”. I think* that this may be the slogan of someone seeking political office. He said, “Give me your three best reasons for why you don’t like Socialism. I am going to go away for an hour and come back so that you have time to think about it.”

Shortly after he left the room I quickly prayed that God would give me clarity of mind, remembrance of apropos Scriptures, and an opportunity for witness. After a few minutes thought three reasons came to mind and Scriptures by way of an online concordance. Then I thought to call my older brother, who was a preacher for many years, in order to see if he had any better Scriptures. It was kinda a “call a friend” on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” moment, but in God’s providence we could not make connection after several tries in both directions.

Though more well thought out and concise here, my answer went some like the following:

I began by saying that I suspected that many of the people who hate Socialism would agree with the points I was about to make, even if few know why or where the ideas come from. For my part, I come from a biblical worldview that judges all of life based on what the Scriptures say. (2)

Here are my three reasons for hating Socialism:

1) Role of Government

In Romans 13:1-5, Paul clearly lays out the God ordained role of government to punish evil doers. We can extend that to include internal and external enemies. The government should punish those who murder, steal, rape, and otherwise harm fellow citizens. They should raise a defense against invading enemies (3). Redistributing wealth is a gross overreach of a government’s God ordained role. As a self-governed, free people we should do all we can to stifle this overreach.

2) Ownership

This concept flows from the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) God has given people the privilege of owning and stewarding possessions. The government is stealing possessions to give to others when taxes go beyond maintenance of the God ordained role of government. The government is playing Robin Hood with the taxpayer’s money, but much less efficiently or altruistically. A corollary to this principle arises in a parable that Jesus tells as an analogy for the kingdom of God. The reference to ownership is not the point of the parable, but Jesus teaches us truth about ownership in the midst of teaching about His kingdom. He does not use falsehood to support a truth He teaches. I read part of the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 to my colleague and explained the rest. The owner of the vineyard hires men to work in his vineyard at various times during the day as he finds them in the marketplace. At the end of the day he pays them all the same amount even though some worked all day in the heat and some worked for one hour (4). When questioned about the unfairness of this pay scheme, the owner says, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:13-15). The corollary to ownership is freedom to dispose of what belongs to you as you see fit. It is not the government’s place to decide how you spend or give your possessions.

3) Diligence

This last point is the most telling as to the disaster of Socialism. I told my colleague that the Thessalonians (5) must have had a tendency toward Socialism, because Paul felt a need to mention their work ethic in both books he wrote, being quite direct in the second instance. In I Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul admonished his readers “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” for the purpose of witness to outsiders. In II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Paul is very direct about those who are idle and slack in discipline: “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (v.10) The most extreme form of Socialism, Communism, has failed numerous times to produce hard work and altruism among those laboring on collective farms and in collective factories. On the one hand, why work hard if the government will supply what you need? On the other hand, why work hard if you don’t own the property (crop, stock, interest, benefit) of the enterprise to be able to profit from it succeeding? Socialism fails to provide because of the dual selfishness of the greedy ruler and the slack worker.

I ended the discussion by saying that it seems there is a continuum from the far right of unbridled capitalism and far left of authoritarian communism. It may look something like the following:

authoritarian – socialism –  socialist –  regulated  –  unbridled

communism                         democracy  capitalism   capitalism

I understand the draw of Socialism to curb the excesses of unbridled capitalism. I think that socialist democracy is an oxymoronic attempt either to deceive others or a self-deception on the way toward socialism. I would support a minimally regulated capitalism because it puts the government in a position to punish evil doers who are stealing from the neighbors while respecting the individual’s right to own and dispose of his wealth as he sees fit. I think that I stand in good company with our founding fathers who instituted the Patent Act of 1790, for example. (6) And I believe I am in better company with the principles God’s Word lays down for our interactions with our fellow citizens.

*I don’t follow the tit for tat details of politics because I find it disheartening. A quick Google search brought up several signs past and present of politicians and political groups touting this slogan.

(2) No, I didn’t say that sentence quite so concisely or clearly, but I wish I had. Much that calls itself Christian these days is not, because it does not obey the admonition to be “destroying every speculation” by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). The direction for obedience to Christ is the Scripture.

(3) Augustine’s Just War Theory would not include expansionist offensives though it could be well argued that it could include pre-emptive offensives.

(4) His actual point is that whether you come late or early, God gives the grace of salvation (“one denarius”, a day’s wage) to each so the “last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16).

(5) Thessalonica was an ancient city in Macedonia in the north of Greece from whence came Alexander the Great and where Paul planted a church.

(6) As far back as 500 B.C. right of ownership of an idea or new product is noted.

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“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ” (Galatians 5:1)

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

What is liberty? How do we obtain it? How do we live in (or by) it? Many lengthy treatises have been written on this subject but a simple, functional definition is frequently beyond our grasp. I began to think on liberty after considering a line in the hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, by Fredrick Faber: “There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty.” In order to understand the meaning intended by this line you must understand kindness, justice, and liberty, not from a humanist standpoint, as we frequently do with liberty, but from God’s viewpoint.

A short article on Christian liberty I found online had a succinct discussion and concise conclusion: “The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-liberty.html) This sentence confirms what I had heard to be a simple statement of what Christian liberty (and therefore any real liberty) is: Liberty is the freedom to do what is right.

In order to stand firm in that liberty we need to stay out of two miry, hazardous ditches: legalism and license. We best keep our eyes fixed ahead on Jesus and the liberty trail He has blazed rather than fearing or obsessing over the ditches on either side of us. We must be aware of them, wary of them, and wise to them, but if we obey the voice of God as He guides us, we need not fret over them.

So how do I run the right wheel of liberty merrily along without being tracked into the icy waters of the ditch legalism? I love the hymn that says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” As the Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). That curse was death demanded by the righteousness of God proclaimed by the Law. In fact, “we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) There it is! The Spirit gives us the power and freedom to do what is right. The statutes of the Law for the Christian were abolished in Christ, but not the moral law, the ten commandments. Instead, we are now enabled to do what is right- blessed liberty!

Many friends reading this blog will not have trouble with the aforementioned ditch. So how do I run a true course with the left wheel of liberty and avoid sliding off into the ditch license? Again I refer to this old hymn: “Children of God- oh, glorious calling, Surely His grace will keep us from falling; Passing from death to life at His call, Blessed salvation once for all.” I see three Scripture based answers to the license danger in this hymn verse: 1) His grace keeps us from falling (2 Corinthians 12:9), 2) The glory of our calling in Christ gives us purpose and worth to resist mere license (Romans 6:1-4), and 3) We are being fitted for heaven which brings great hope and focus (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). 

So the “standing firm” of the initial verse of this blog entry means walking in liberty without tracking or sliding into the ditches. When you “Consider yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:11) you guard on the one side and “So speak and so act as those judged by the law of liberty,” (James 2:12) in defense of the other. Tracking in liberty is not looking at the worrisome waves on either side, but keeping full view of the Savior out in front of us. And He even knows our frailty and extends a hand to catch us up when we call for help. (Matthew 14:28-33)

We extend this liberty to others in the natural realm through governance, community involvement, church unity, and family togetherness, so that they may come to see true liberty in the spiritual realm through the two great commandments: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40), and thus be saved to eternal joy and peace. Happy Independence Day!

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Storm the beaches
Drop from the sky
Normandy’s far reaches
Every angle try

Rain of bullets
Take cover or die
Blood is freedom’s droplets
Shed in full supply

Wrench from tyrants
All sorts of slaves
All that conscience supplants
Against reason raves

Surge forward now
Pill boxes defeat
Start liberation now
Rescue not complete

Push over fields
Free every town
Freedom to no man yields
Made them renown

Always has been
Good and evil fight
Freedom will at last win
Wrong bow to right

 

 

For my thoughts on D-Day, see “D-Day Remembrance of Freedom”

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A few months ago I heard about a student at my school who will be speaking at the 75th anniversary remembrance of D-Day in Normandy, France. I began to wander, what level of perspective he could possibly have on the subject? He doesn’t even remember 9/11, let alone D-Day. But how silly of me to think that, since I don’t have a contemporary or first hand knowledge of the event either. Instead, I think that the young man and I may add two generations of perspective to what we may learn from and remember about the events on the those beaches. In some ways I have already (see “Memory Lapse” and “Allegiance” and “Has the World Really Changed?”) So, I consider, given the opportunity, what would I say on such an occasion?

I think that the wider issue concerning such a remembrance runs deeper than the extent of sacrifices made on that day, significant though they be. Such events, with their terrible tragedy and selfless sacrifice point to the reason such events have happened and must continue to happen. Freedom has always and must always be fought for.

Perhaps the nature of war has changed in 75 years and such all out attacks may not need to occur again, but there do continue to be individuals, groups, and nations that want to destroy freedom and those who have it and love it. Why is this so? All honest people must admit that the vices of hatred, envy, and murder reside in the heart of us all and we are all capable of evil acts given the opportunity and circumstances. Apart from God’s grace I am capable of heinous sins and persistent failings. But in reality, many people refuse to admit to total depravity, an internal sin nature inherited from our father, Adam. But it exists and thrives, nonetheless, being clearly taught in Scripture (Romans 5:12-14, I Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 3:23, Romans 7:14-25, Ephesians 3:5-9).

And so, were I to give a speech on that occasion, I believe I would speak in some part similar to the following:

On this occasion of the 75th anniversary of the combat operation called D-Day, we come to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men who fought for the freedom of others and for the grand concept of Freedom. The depth of depravity lodged against the French people and the world at that time demanded an all out battle to preserve our freedoms. The soldiers who labored here helped to secure those freedoms in their generation.

It is not as though this battle was the only time our nations have fought together for freedom. The French formed a decisive shield for the fledgling nation of the United States at Yorktown. We are grateful.

But I think that it is reasonable to ask, why do we value Freedom so much? Afterall, men do not run into a rain of bullets to preserve their own freedom. They fulfill their duty for the sake of the freedom of others and for freedom in the world. Those others for whom they purchase freedom include people for whom they care: family, friends, comrades, community, and freedom-loving people of all nations. Freedom in the world is a concept, an ideal, as well as a way of living. What motivates an individual to die for a concept?

I believe this motivation is lodged in what it means to be a person. Without freedom one comes to realize that he/she is less than a person. Personhood does not necessitate autonomy, but it does require some ability to act in accord with one’s own conscience. Those who love freedom preserve it with their watchfulness and sacrifice. But those who hate freedom have given it up to serve some lesser fear or pleasure.

Indeed, the sacrifices exhibited here are a testimony to the greater freedom which we are in danger of losing. As modern men and women we seek for what several writers* have called “negative freedom”, which is being free from interference or constraint. But this type of freedom is a dim shadow of the greater “positive freedom”, which is the state of reaching full potential as a person. We may reach that state in the midst of great constraint and even threat of death. Therefore, people fighting for freedom both to preserve it and to be free in the act of gaining it, are free. Their sacrifice is reasonable, purposeful, and laudable.

We stand here in appreciation of those who bought and preserved our freedom. Thankfulness must needs do more than say thanks. True thankfulness will honor the wishes of those who sacrificed here. What then would those freedom fighters want from us but to preserve and rightly utilize freedom.

In order to fulfill this duty, we need to know the source and way of freedom. The Scripture says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” (James 1:17) Freedom is such a gift to be utilized in giving glory to the Giver and help to all within reach of us. And the deepest and truest freedom is internal. If we have peace with God, peaceful intention toward our neighbor, and peace within, we are truly free. And the source of freedom is given to those who “have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) So how should we now live? “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover up for evil” (I Peter 2:16) And “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)

So then, fellow freedom lovers, seek the true everlasting freedom so that you may also extend freedom to all those for whom you care and even to those enemies of freedom who do not yet know how good freedom is. Remember those who have cherished freedom more than life and sacrificed to purchase and preserve it for you. Fulfill your duty to procure and promote freedom for all who will own it, fighting against all who will try to destroy it. With the keeping of these duties those who fought here would be pleased and their sacrifices are then valued.

*https://www.productiveflourishing.com/two-concepts-of-freedom/

[Also check out the following passages: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36) “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.” (Acts 13:39) “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:28)]

 

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