O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
– Star Spangled Banner
Please Note: This is a longer blog. If you don't have time for the full journey, please read the Introduction and the Summary at the end.
The United States of America: the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” This month, we remember once again our Day of Independence, when the United States began her quest as an independent proponent of freedom. This freedom is at the core of who we are. Without freedom, we would not be the United States of America. This freedom has suffered many challenges because as the old adage goes, “freedom is not free.” We have lived for it, fought for it, died for it. But yet, freedom stands. But freedom is such a fragile thing, so difficultly gained, so easily lost. As a nation, we are once again at a crossroads. How can we ensure that freedom is maintained and passed on to our posterity?
In my last post (part one) I talked about freedom and suffering. If you missed it, catch it here: http://dplorimer.blogspot.com/2012/07/freedom-pt-1-freedom-and-suffering.html
Now I want to share part two, and look at yet a different perspective of freedom – in the realm of the personal. What does selfishness have to do with freedom?
The Journey: (The Journey is best, but if you don't have time, please skip to the “Summary” in bold at the end.)
The dictionary defines freedom as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” If we have freedom, then we can do whatever we want, right? Isn't that the purpose of freedom, so that we can do as we please? This is the philosophy of many. But what impact does this have on freedom? The truth is that this view of freedom is rooted in selfishness and attacks the very foundation of freedom. Selfishness is the very antagonist of freedom and nothing will destroy freedom more quickly. How can I say that?
The Biblical concept of freedom/liberty is not license to do whatever we please. In fact, Paul addresses this very issue in Galatians: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” - Gal 5:13
Rather than self-pleasing, the Biblical concept of freedom/liberty is the liberty to serve others. It is a selfless pouring out of ourselves to do what is best for someone else.
So we have two competing principles: selfishness and selflessness. Selflessness is the preserver of freedom and selfishness is the destroyer of freedom. So what do we do about it? How do we preserve freedom?
Let me start by saying that all freedom is personal and internal. If someone is free internally, you can't take that freedom away with external bonds. If someone is bound internally, you can't set them free with external means. So to address the core issues of freedom, we must address the core issues of the person. To really deal with selfishness and freedom, it takes us right to the heart of man.
The real issue behind selfishness is carnality. At the root of the carnal nature is selfishness. The result of selfishness is bondage – you cannot be free and selfish because the selfishness will put you in bondage. Selfishness will control you. It will dictate your life. You are bound, and unable to act as you should. Selfishness puts you in chains to money, greed, government, sex, hate, something. There is no question, selfishness will make you its slave. It will control you.
The solution? “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” - Gal 13:16-18. The Spirit of God brings freedom. He is the source of selflessness, and it is only selflessness that brings true freedom.
But there it said it again – if we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law, so that means we can do what we want, right? No. Because this freedom is freedom to serve others (Gal 5:13). And you find that by serving others you are preserving freedom – both your own freedom and theirs. A society of internally free (selfless) people is the only society that will remain free.
For that reason, freedom apart from Christianity cannot exist. Because God is the giver of real freedom, and any freedom without Christ is a mere fantasy. But we speak in the personal level. Does this really have an impact on whole societies? Yes.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” - John Adams (The Works of John Adams, ed. C. F. Adams, Boston: Little, Brown Co., 1851, 4:31)
“Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure (and) which insures to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." - Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence
“Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants.” - Benjamin Franklin
“It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.” - Patrick Henry
Take for example Islam. We hear a lot about Islam being a religion of peace and freedom. It is not a religion of either. Islam is a religion of fear and bondage. In Islamic countries that have been given freedom, does it last? Some have overthrown their government. Who comes into power but more tyrants? Some have been given freedom externally, and they struggle to maintain it, because the people are not internally free. They are bound, because they have forsaken the true God.
But it's not just Islam. Every godless country in history has fallen because freedom cannot be maintained. Without God, America is headed toward the same end. The only thing that can save her is a return to Christ, who gives true freedom.
Freedom and Selfishness – Here's how it works.
Carnal Nature → Selfishness → Person does what self wants; disregards others; disregards laws → Laws are required to contain this person → the more selfish, the more external rules are imposed → the more external rules imposed, the less freedom → the cycle continues until freedom is lost.
The end result is the loss of freedom altogether. The root cause is selfishness.
The only way to reverse this trend is to reverse the beginning. The root of selfishness must be replaced with selflessness, the very essence of Christianity. We start over:
Spiritual Nature → Selflessness ---> Person does what is best for others; follows rules; obeys laws → Rules/laws are not necessary to contain this person because the person is self-governed → the more selfless, the less external rules are imposed → the cycle continues toward greater and greater freedom.
The end result is absolute freedom. The root cause is selflessness.
This equation applies in personal life, the church, school, work, government, everywhere. If you want to have freedom, you must be self-governed. You cannot be selfish and self-governed.
All freedom is personal; All bondage is personal. If you are in bondage internally, you will be in bondage externally. If you are free internally, you will be free externally.
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.” - Patrick Henry
The Bible teaches it. The founders believed it. People must be free internally in order to maintain freedom externally. If the United States is to stay free, it will only be because the citizens are truly free, free with the liberty in Christ to do what is best for others, and not just serve themselves.
To preserve freedom we don't need better laws, we need better people. For the sake of freedom, will you be one?