By Michael W. Dewar (July 2021)
Liberty is the state of being free physically, psychologically, and spiritually. A person or group is not really free until these three aspects of liberty are realized. Liberty is a right endowed by the Creator of humankind and its exercise should not be abridged, except to prevent trampling upon the freedom of another. Authentic liberty, therefore, is tri-dimensional and necessary for a civilize society to endure, prosper, and flourish.
Liberty Is Physical or Natural
Humans were created for liberty. Natural liberty is freedom from slavery. Slavery is the denial or severe restriction of mobility to live freely and happily, to work and receive equitable compensation for a person’s labor or to retain ownership of his labor products. Natural liberty is the freedom to worship according to the dictates of one’s conscience, to speak freely, raise a family, exercise civic duties, prosper, and flourish within a community. Natural liberty also includes the freedom to withdraw from community, providing that withdrawal does not abridge the freedom of others.
Since human history is fraught with events of the strong over-powering the weak and robbing them of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, people have organized themselves into tribes, communities, and nation states for the flourishing and security of all. In such cases, people surrender certain amount of personal freedom for the good of the community. For these reasons, among others, rules or laws are enacted to which the whole community or the majority thereof gives assent. The laws are equally applied to the benefit of the entire community. No one is given preferential treatment or exempted from due process or escapes the punishment that accompanies infractions.
If these fruits of liberty are abridged without consent or apartheid in any shape or form, due process and diplomatic means are necessary to settle the matter without war or bloodshed. But, if such fail, the oppressed that is denied their liberty or the fruits of liberty, are duty-bound to throw off the tyranny the oppressor by all necessary means.
The response to throw off oppression is not only inherent in human nature, but also a divine directive. Such directive is seen with the biblical Exodus under Moses, the Hebrew liberator. Similar actions are seen in the American revolutionary war, and Apartheid South Africa. It is a righteous thing to throw off tyranny by force when peaceful means have failed to achieve the desired outcome.
However, when power, economic resources and weapons of war galore are in the hands of the oppressor that can easily lead to massacre and genocide of the powerless–much wisdom is needed throwing off the yoke of the oppressor. Half-hearted attempts are often sited by oppressors as justification to increase violence against the oppressed.
Therefore, since, violence tends to solicit greater violent response, a non-violent approach may be a better strategy. The outcome of such strategy is better realized when there are external allies working on behalf of the oppressed, and when the oppressed exercises faith in a higher authority or supreme ally.
In other words, an enduring faith in the God of the Bible is perhaps, a more effective weapon for securing liberty, but such faith does not cancel human responsibility. Civil rights marches in America are examples of the oppressed not being passive. The God of the Bible is known to be always on the side of the oppressed and will sooner or later bring about their liberation but the oppressed cannot just sit and wait. The Torah has taught us that God does not object to the oppressed fighting for their own liberation (We will return to this truth later).
Liberty Is Psychological Freedom
Freedom of mind is even more critical than mere physical freedom. A person is first a slave in his or her mind. It has been sufficiently documented that when the mind surrenders to oppression and servitude, no prison walls or chains are needed to restrict mobility. The human mind can be conditioned to dance to the command of the oppressors as Pavlov’s dog salivate at the sound of a bell. Some refer to the behavior as Stockholm syndrome.
The mental health of oppressed people is critical to their liberation. It is most difficult for people who have been stripped of their dignity and their humanity to maintain good mental health to champion their own liberation. This psychological rape is the worst among all denials of liberty. Slavery in America and the Jewish holocaust are the most horrifying examples of such inhumanity. This is also true of the once impoverished and isolated native Americans on barren reservations, and the isolation of African Americans in the large and small ghettos of big cities. Such treatment resulted is psychological damage in numerous cases.
Persons that experienced such psychological traumas, are allowed certain levels of physical mobility but are so damaged mentally and emotionally that they feel enslaved or dead, even though on paper they have been proclaimed emancipated. Indeed, liberty is psychological freedom. If a person is conditioned all his life to think he is a grasshopper, he will eventually begin to behave as helpless as the grasshopper he sees himself to be.
Liberty Is Spiritual Freedom
The greatest insult to liberty is not the denial or abridgement of physical freedom as evil and satanic as that may be. Nor is the depravation of psychological freedom worst, as insidious, inhumane, and demonic as that may be. The loss of faith in God, the ability to pray or worship is most critical for that is the well-spring of personal hope. Furthermore, these spiritual exercises are the true weapons of spiritual warfare (Eph.6:10-19). History has shown us that people with strong faith in the God of the Bible can survive the worse assault wicked people can inflect.
Frankly, it is never easy to enslave a person with strong faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Jewish and Christian Bible, the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for centuries but did not lose faith in Yahweh during the long night of their servitude. They kept believing in the God of the Covenant, and that faith gave rise to their future liberation which came to fruition under Moses in the Exodus. Babylon and the Persian Empire could nor destroy the Jewish people who kept faith in the God of Abraham, not even the devil incarnate in the form of Hitler could. If they could, there would not be a proud nation named Israel today.
The Roman Empire did everything in its power to destroy the Christian faith without success. Secular Rome eventually fell on its own weight, and the faith it sought to destroy became the religion of the state. The Bishop of Rome took the chair where the Caesars once sat.
Later it was that same faith in the God of the Bible that inspired the Protestant Reformation and made Britain Great. Without applauding Britain’s colonial atrocities, one can say with faith in the God of the Bible, she rose to the challenge to become a global empire. She made the Bible accessible and affordable to the common people throughout the places she colonized. But now as faith in God wains in Britain, she ceased to be great. Like an aged lion no longer strong enough to protect the pride she growls as she looks to others to defend whatever liberty she has left. She reluctantly handed off the baton to another great power conceived in liberty and a faith anchored in the God of the Bible.
Liberty In America
Liberty in America was a grand experiment, but it was intended to be a liberty grounded in faith in God, a liberty that endures. Today Sunday, July 4th, 2021, is not only the Lord’s Day as it has been since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, today is America’s Independence Day. It brings us back to July 4th, 1776, when the Continental Congress voted with 56 delegates from 13 states to adopt the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson.
The 13 States or colonies represented were: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The United States made July 4th a federal holiday in 1941. Again, it was a nation conceived in liberty and faith in God, the source of true liberty.
The 56 signers of that declaration of independence had no illusions as to what they were doing. These signers of liberty pledged their lives, their earthly possessions, and their sacred honor to the cause of liberty. They knew King George III and the British Empire would consider the declaration an act of treason and a declaration of war, and they did.
The 56 signers had no illusions. They knew if this grand experiment failed, their heads would be severed from their bodies, families destroyed, and property confiscated. But they also knew something else, that the guiding hand of Divine providence was behind this extra ordinary undertaking of forming a new nation anchored in liberty.
Some may consider this a stretch, but I see a parallel between the founding Fathers of this great nation and the founding Fathers of our Christian faith. Here is the contrast: 13 colonies and 56 delegates left us a declaration of Independence and a constitution, documents rooted in liberty and in the God of all liberties. In first century, Jerusalem about A.D. 33, 13 men sat at table to share a meal, it could have been their last meal. They represented the 12 tribes of Israel, but the leader represented all humankind.
At that table that night a New Covenant was forged in blood to liberate the people of God from the tyranny of Satan and the kingdom of darkness. The document that came down to us from that revolution for liberty is the New Testament (27 books added to the 39 of the Hebrew Bible). Those documents form the constitution of a new chosen people of God (this does not imply the casting a way of Israel by any means). Peter refers to the Church as God’s “chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation” (1Peter 2: 9 ).
At the time, the undertakings of those 13 men seemed as impossible as the undertakings of the signers of the 13 colonies. One man dying on a cross to save humankind appeared impossible. Before the meal ended that night, one man dropped out as a betrayer, another as a denier, the leader got arrested and executed the following day and his followers scattered. It appears the grand experiment had failed, but all this was orchestrated by the guiding hand of Divine providence.
Early Easter Sunday morning, Jesus tore the bars of death away and arose with the voice of triumph. He declared, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev.1:18 NIV). When the battle of death was waged on the cross with God and Satan, for a while it appeared that all was lost, but when the fog cleared on Easter Sunday morning, the world knew that the greatest cosmic victory for liberty was realized.
What other battle does that reminds you of? Of course, the battle of at Fort McHenry. The British and the Americans fought all night on land and sea. The British with their superior naval forces of warships gave it their all because they were hellbent on destroying the infant nation. Civilians who were able to sleep, went to bed that night not knowing who won that battle at Fort McHenry. But at dawns early light as the smoke and fog of the all-night canon bombardment began to wear away, Old Glory was sighted waving in the wind from the bow of ship. Somebody pointed and said, “Oh say can you see….”
What was believed to be a defeat, turned out to be the greatest victory this country has ever won. Every time we sing those immortal words of the national anthem penned by Frances Scott Key, we are drawn back to the battle of Fort McHenry. Every time I sing, “Amazing Grace” or “when I survey the wonderous cross on which the Price of glory died,” my mind goes back to the empty tomb of that first Easter morning. Jesus through his cross and triumphant resurrection has won for us a liberty that will endure for time and eternity. This brings me to…
The Preservation of Liberty
The liberty that Jesus won by His cross and resurrection comes with human responsibility. Satan’s mission is to re-enslave every soul Jesus emancipated, and he will, if you allow him. The apostle Paul said to the Galatians, standfast in the liberty wherewith Christ made you free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage (Gal.5:1). In other words, Jesus gave you freedom, but Satan can take you back into custody, if you allow him. If freedom as we know it is to endure, we must be proactive in its preservation, and there are few things that we must regard as non-negotiables.
First, free people cannot passively sit back thinking their liberty is forever secured. Every generation must continue to fight to preserve liberty and to work for a more perfect union.
We all want a liberty that will endure, but for that to happen, each generation of Americans must be willing to work and fight for its preservation. We cannot sit back thinking it is forever secured. The insurrection on the capitol building January 6 (2021), tells us our liberty is not forever secured; there is much work to do. We all witnessed the wagon of our liberty came to stop short of going over the cliff. We loss few faithful horses off that cliff, but the wagon is still sitting precariously on the ledge as a new administration tries to drag it back to safety, but it will take all of us to secure it.
None of us knew that our own fellow citizens would have done such a thing, but they did. Some of them where once patriots, men and women who lifted their hands and sore to protect this nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It is hard to believe that these same people would turn on their fellow citizens. Some are still sitting in the Congress and the Senate of the United States where they were sent to do the people’s business. But now they are tending to their own self-interest and the interest of a selfish misguided man. They are among what the constitution refers to as “domestic enemies,” and from whom we must defend ourselves with same vigor as we do foreign foes.
Second, liberty cannot endure in the face of fractured unity. If the word “United” that precedes the words “States of America” is fractured, we bid goodbye to liberty as we know it. Unity is the cement that holds fifty independent states together. The founding fathers knew the union was not perfect. Perfection is what each generation must strive for—it is a work in progress.
Rabbi Jesus warns that no kingdom divided against itself can endure—that is true of the kingdom of God as well as the kingdom of Satan, and true of any earthly kingdom. The three persons of the trinity forms the perfect union. If Satan’s kingdom is divided, his kingdom falls apart. Unity is critical also for the Church which represents the kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus wants the leaders of His Church to strive for the same quality of unity that binds the three personalities of the blessed Holy Trinity as one God (John 17:20-21).
The United States cannot endure as the citadel of liberty as we know it if her unity is fractured. We are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons, sophisticated war machines, and the best fighting force that planet Earth has ever seen. It would take an insane foreign power to attack us head on. But if we are divided among ourselves, we will fall from within—we will implode. “Inward corruption in a nation is more dangerous to its existence than its external foes,” said an anonymous source. We do not need to fight another civil war. This time around we will all lose our liberty—as Benjamin Franklin aptly puts it, “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Third, liberty is unsustainable if we abandon faith in the God of the Bible. God and the Bible are the ultimate sources of our liberty. That fact is enshrined in the marble of most important buildings and documents throughout this country, especially Washington D.C. There is a reason presidents put their hand on the Bible and confess that this is one nation under God, and they need His help to serve effectively in that office. “So, help me God” is a call for divine help.
There are those among us who believe we can abandon faith in God and continue to enjoy liberty as we know it, but that idea is fallacious. A society without God and biblical values is a frightening place to live. History has warned us the farther we drift from our Judea-Christian roots, the more we become enslave to values that will not stand the test of time.
True liberty finds its origin in the God of the Bible. He is the only being with absolute freedom. Because humans are made in God’s image and likeness, we are endowed with the attributes of liberty and our DNA dance to personal and communal freedom.
God is the chief architect that defines the boundaries of human freedom. To be truly free, humans must recognize the source of their liberty and the boundaries established to maintain such liberty. Adam and Eve, our ancestral parents lost their freedom and enslaved their posterity when they ignored the boundaries established to keep them safe and free. The ancient people of God did the same, they ignored Deuteronomic boundaries and lost their personal and national liberty for centuries (see Deuteronomy 28).
Because human beings were created to live in community, the moral law was given as boundaries to our liberty. The moral law keeps us safe from ourselves and our neighbors. We consent to live together in communities by limiting the exercise of our personal freedom for the sake of all. For this reason, no group in the community can be given preferred treatment. Preferred treatment for one group, threatens the liberty of all.
The love of God and the love of neighbor constitute the surest foundation for a liberty that endures. The society that practices these values stand the best chance retaining its liberty.
*This article is part of a sermon given by the author on Sunday July 4th 2021 at NY Congregational Baptist Church.
Two very important books to consider: