Commentary: Freedom Isn't Free
Given 03-Jul-21; 9 minutes
Tomorrow, the citizens of the United States of America will celebrate the 245th anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, in which the authors of the document justified the independence of the United States from Great Britain based on 27 specific grievances against King George III. In those grievances, King George III is described as a tyrant and unfit to be the ruler of a free people. His actions inspired the colonies in America to break away from the monarchy.
And so, members of the Second Continental Congress that represented the 13 colonies came together to formally declare independence from Great Britain. In that declaration, specifically the United States Declaration of Independence, one of the most famous sentences penned by the authors of the document is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A Wikipedia article on the Declaration of Independence states,
The declaration was made to create equal rights for every person and if it was intended for only a certain section of people, they would have left it as "rights of Englishmen." This has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language", containing "the most potent and consequential words in American history". The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive.
War between Great Britain and the United States had already begun on April 19, 1775, with the battle of Lexington and Concord, essentially a year before independence was declared. For 8 years and 4 months, the death toll continued to rise to an estimated high of 6,800 Americans killed in battle.
Not considered in that total is those who were wounded, taken captive, or died from various diseases, which makes the number climb quickly to the 50,000 range. A lot of lives were lost or severely impacted as the United States took its first steps toward autonomy and freedom from the pressures of the British monarchy.
Wars like this have inspired the saying that “freedom isn’t free.” The meaning behind it is primarily to express the gratitude to those in the armed forces who have fought and died for freedom, as well as those that continue to sacrifice in order that maintain freedom. Freedom has always come with a price and many have paid for it with their lives.
Some 245 years later, it would seem that the importance and actions of the Americans at that time (throughout the events of the Revolutionary War) have somehow diminished a bit. As generation after generation of Americans have been born, lived, and died, many of us have never known what it was like to live in such tumultuous times, although it could be argued that we are very much headed towards similar times. But truthfully, we haven’t lived in a time of revolution and independence being declared as a new country. It’s simply already existed for us.
We’ve enjoyed the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and the right to protest, bear arms, and I could go on.
It is perhaps easy for those of us who have grown up in America or other free nations across this world to take for granted the freedom and liberty we’ve been blessed with because we really didn’t do anything to make it happen. We didn’t sign a Declaration of Independence, or put our lives or that of our families in the balance, in order to secure and then protect a particular country, land, and freedoms.
We do, however, have a part to play in maintaining liberty and freedom.
Remember the quote I mentioned from Wikipedia regarding the preamble of the Declaration of Independence: “The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive.” It’s interesting to hear John Adam’s famous quote from a letter he wrote to the Massachusetts militia, dated October, 11, 1798: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Perhaps John Adams was referencing a thought or belief that moral decline was at least one or even the main cause of the fall of the Roman Empire, and by his statement he was warning Americans of one of the ways that the country could be destroyed. I say, "perhaps," because I don’t know his true intent, but it is interesting.
Also interesting is a famous speech that Abraham Lincoln gave, titled "The Lyceum Address," on January 27, 1838, where he eluded that if America were to be destroyed, it would happen from within:
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
The freedom and independence that was declared would require that the nation of free people sacrifice certain things in their lives in such a way as to support a particular way of life. A religious and moral country would succeed, and likewise, a morally corrupt and godless nation would fail.
We don’t have to look very far to see how far this country has fallen from a moral perspective. Murder, lawlessness, thievery, and all kinds of things that should not even be spoken of are going on right here in the free nation. Deuteronomy 12:8 warns of “everyone doing what is right in their own eyes.”
We see this playing out in society today. Instead of unity of vision, faith, and direction, we see factions in government, society, neighborhoods, churches, and even families. Violence is rampant and anti-God, anti-religion, anti-family sentiments abound. Self control, self government, and even treating others as we would like to be treated, have all but faded into the past. A nation of “free people” is becoming a nation enslaved to sin.
As America celebrates the 245th anniversary of independence from Britain and self-declared freedom and liberty, perhaps it’s good for us (those in God’s church) to remember the freedom that Christ’s sacrifice has provided for us, and also what that freedom requires of us. Titus provides a good reminder that is worth considering, especially during this time in history:
Titus 2:11-14 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
As America celebrates the anniversary of independence, we can be thankful for God’s promises and the blessings through Abraham that have made this nation great. We can reflect on all those who came before us and the high price they paid for our physical freedoms.
We can also remember—and we should do this daily—the tremendous sacrifice that our Savior made on our behalf that has freed us from the bondage of sin. As such, we all have a responsibility to live righteously as God has prescribed in His written word, especially as we head towards the end of the age.
As we watch prophecy being fulfilled and the morality of the people of our nation declining before our very eyes, we can look forward to that City and Kingdom that God and Christ are preparing for us even now. We can look forward to that spiritual nation, united in spirit, free from sin, and living forever with our God and Savior Jesus Christ.