Published July 20, 2006
Liberty is a costly commodity. It never comes without a price. I was reminded of that in a very succinct way on Monday evening, July 3. Martha Jean and I went with some friends, Dr. and Mrs. Walter McBride, to hear the Atlanta Symphony present their annual patriotic concert at Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre in Mableton.
In addition to the stirring music, including “Fanfare for Freedom,” “This Is My Country,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Liberty for All,” Ric Reitz, an actor who has appeared in a number of films, did a heart-rending narration on the cost of liberty. He quoted from a speech George Washington gave at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. I do not remember all that he said, but I was reminded that freedom is never free.
History records the hardships Washington’s troops encountered during the winter of 1777–1778, and I have always been intrigued, even traumatized, by the stories I have read about the deprivation of the soldiers at Valley Forge.
When New York’s Governor Morris visited the troops there he exclaimed, “An army of skeletons appeared before our eyes naked, starved, sick and discouraged.”
The Marquis de Lafayette stated, “The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything; they had neither coats nor hats, nor shirts, nor shoes. Their feet and their legs froze until they were black, and it was often necessary to amputate them.”
Those who have fought and died from the time of the American Revolutionary battles in Lexington and Concord to the present day battles in Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom have purchased at a great price the liberty we enjoy in America.
John F. Kennedy understood the cost of liberty. He said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
The liberty we enjoy as Christians has also come at a great price. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, had to die a cruel, ignominious death in order for us to know freedom from sin, freedom from guilt, freedom from Satan, freedom from condemnation and freedom to be what God wants us to be.
But we must remember that freedom is always inexorably linked to responsibility. Sir Edward Gibbon, historian and one of England’s premier wordsmiths, penned, “In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When … the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free.”
At the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro last month Southern Baptists passed a resolution against the use of alcohol in America. The resolution was inspired because of “some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of our ‘freedom in Christ.’”?The Bible warns against “using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness” (I Peter 2:16). One translation says, “Live like free men, only do not make your freedom an excuse for doing wrong.”
Whether you are talking about “freedom in Christ,” “the priesthood of the believer” or “soul freedom,” you are not to misconstrue the concept so as to turn liberty into license.
Some might say that “freedom in Christ” gives them the liberty to drink wine, go shopping on the Lord’s Day or use profanity to emphasize a point. Quite frankly, such behavior under the guise of Christian liberty is nothing more than a mask to conceal sin.
With regard to the Christian life, liberty may be more accurately defined as the spirit of doing right spontaneously. Christian freedom comes when the heart of a saint is so unalterably linked with Christ that he/she is unified with Him in sympathy and interest and has the same radical purpose, the same holy views and aims.
Therefore, there is such harmony with God in their affections, desires and ends that their actions become an established, settled state. They are no more in bondage than Christ himself was. They are in such accord with God that their conscience no longer goads them, but guides them into the sweet will of God.
When the conscience sinks into the sweet will of God there is the most glorious kind of freedom, for God’s will is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2c). Conversely, the person who uses liberty in Christ as a mask for doing wrong is living life in a masquerade ball of fools.
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