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 Chapter 28

The Genuine Principles of Liberty

 

EVEN selfish men plead for their own rights and their own liberty. But true liberty is liberty for all, a universal liberty. Those committed to true principles of liberty will not only plead for their own rights, but even more for the rights of others. No freedom-loving individual can sit by, complacent and inactive, when he or she knows that the God-given rights of another individual or group of individuals are being trampled. Thus we have a responsibility to plead for the rights of others, that they may have the true freedom that we want for ourselves. This thought was embedded in a nineteenth century poem by James Russell Lowell.

No: true freedom is to share

All the chains our brothers wear,

And, with heart and hand, to be

Earnest to make others free!

 

God is surely displeased at manís disregard for the rights of others. Too frequently, those who have freedom and live in an environment of freedom, give little thought to those who are under the most abject bondage. But in our present world there are still many people who are deprived of the most basic elements of religious and civil liberty. We sometimes forget that there are between one, and one and one-half billion people who are still under the autocratic control of Communism.

Neither should it be forgotten that in many other countries there are still those who are losing their lives or are prisoners of conscience for their religious convictions or for their political persuasions. Such understanding should bring the greatest distress to each of us, and whatever we can do should be done to help such people. Sometimes we can do something individually, which is to write to the leaders of such governments urging them in the most winning way to reevaluate and redesign their governmental policies.

There are major organizations, such as Amnesty International, that are worthy of our support in these matters. There are other, smaller organizations, such as Christians in Crisis, of Minnesota, which are playing an important role in these areas. Unfortunately too frequently, governments who have the power to influence those nations who are devoid of basic liberty principles, act primarily on political considerations. Thus, often, for economic reasons or diplomatic considerations, they will turn a blind eye to the excesses of other nations. For example, during some of the worst periods of the oppression of Ceausescu in Romania, the American government was still treating that nation as a favored nation in economic matters. Of course it is normal for such nations to give lip service to their concerns, but when determined action is needed, other circumstances often outweigh the humanitarian considerations. This has been seen to occur when populations are starving. The action of the affluent nations is too often determined by political considerations rather than genuine love for those in such distress.

In this period of earthís history, there is no need for one person to die from starvation. At the present capacity for production, there is more than enough food for every person on the planet. Indeed, if we cleared not one additional acre of forest, the present agricultural land, well utilized, could supply sufficient food for about sixteen billion people, ten billion more than we have on the planet today. If the whole world population were to become vegetarians, the present agricultural land could support perhaps four times that population, to at least sixty billion people. It is disheartening to see how the nations of this world do so little to provide for the basic needs of the human race. It is hard to imagine anyone as being free, if he does not have the opportunity to obtain sufficient food to meet the basic needs of survival.

The Word of God provides basic principles concerning our responsibility to our fellow man.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Philippians 2:4

Christians will have a special burden for those other fellow faithful Christians.

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10

However, the true principle of concern for others goes far beyond those whom it is easy to love; it reaches to our very enemies.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Matthew 5:43, 44

One can only wonder how long enmity could exist, if those who have the love of Christ in their hearts were to fulfill this command of Jesus. However, only as Christís followers love as fully as He loved, can this principle be fulfilled.

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10

Surely the precepts of Godís Ten Commandments, kept in the power of Jesus, would be certain bulwarks against selfishness and unconcern for our fellow men. Thus the Psalmist could say,

So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever. And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts. Psalm 119:44, 45

And this is why James could call the Ten Commandments a law of liberty.

For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. James 2:11, 12

This is not to imply that sinful man can obtain liberty before God by keeping the law of God, but that the keeping of this law (which is possible only by faith in Jesus Christ) ensures the liberty we seek. Of course that liberty cannot exist where just laws are transgressed. That is impossible. Faith itself cannot bring about genuine liberty if it does not work obedience. Faith must work by love.

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father. 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. James 2:18

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:20

Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? James 2:22

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26

Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:10

Surely the Word of God through the prophet Jeremiah, expresses the condemnation of God upon those who either legislate tyranny or who are unmindful and indifferent to the tyranny under which others must suffer.

Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 34:17

Godís denunciation of those who fail to proclaim liberty, shows that He is not only displeased by tyranny itself, but that He sends His judgments upon men who do not regard and seek for the rights of their fellow men. The highest expression of our true belief in liberty comes when we are willing to take action to support the liberty and rights of those whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to our own. Under just laws only criminals forfeit their full libertyóthose who have in any way injured or transgressed in a major way against the liberty of others.

 


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