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July 04, 2008

Independence and freedom

We do seem to have a natural yearning for freedom, as humans and as Christians. In Galations 5:1, Paul writes that: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. So, stand firm and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Paul was referring to “the law”, but the notion is broader for those who have been set free in spirit.
In the mid 1700s, America was a British colony. Much was well, and especially, there was unusual religious freedom. But there were the various taxes levied on the colonies, and other onerous laws, passed in England, without representation or consultation. These laws were at least a thorn in the side of the colonies. But, revolution? There was another wave, of discontent, a philosophical one, born perhaps of the success of the reformation, throwing off the dominion of the Catholic church. And, especially, the Enlightenment, Rousseau and others propagating the notion of throwing off the rule of the elect. In America, a few, especially Sam Adams, used the injustices of England's rule to promote revolution. In America the movement was successful. Had England chosen to address the few injustices, the revolution would likely never have happened, as the movement for revolution was not so much grass-roots, as manipulation of the circumstances by the few.
Where were Christians during this time? Maybe more silently practicing the gospel. Independence was not a Christian goal, neither were the “movers and shakers” of the revolution acting out of strong Christian motives. For Christians, even though our Lord is a God of justice, Christ was much more a Lord of peace. Recall that in Romans 13, Paul writes that governments and rulers are established by God, and we should obey them. In fact, he says that he who rebels against the authorities, rebels against God. Certainly, based on Paul’s writing, one could question the revolution. But again, a spirit of freedom is in us.
Perhaps the reason Christians stood by, or participated and led in the revolution, is an irony related to the quote above. We were set free from the law, but we can’t seem to be satisfied with that. Since the reformation, since the printing of the Bible in common language, too many have been stuck in the old testament: the law is easier to deal with than the freedom of the gospel. So, over the years doctrine and divisions have prospered, while freedom in Christ has suffered. Many or most Christians at the time of the revolution, as now, were “believers” in Christ, but still trying to live under the law. Read of the wars and carnage in the old testament and a revolutionary war is palatable. You will read none of it in the new testament.
It could be stated that America began as a God nation, but not so much a Christian nation. In practicing the old testament instead of the new testament, we have justified wars, annihilation of the native Indians (manifest destiny), the sale of Africans for slaves, and the civil war.
I think we all stand happy and proud to be free today. And I am thankful for those who gave their lives for our freedom, through all our history. Frankly, we have not historically lived out God’s plan for our nation. But we are free and prosperous. It is more important that we begin now to be Christ-people, true Christians who practice his mercy and grace. We need to practice and promote “the two commandments” (Mark 12), even more than the ten commandments. May we commit to justice (conformity to truth and reason), but also to love in the spirit of Christ.
Copyright 2008