IS CIVIL LIBERTY IMPORTANT TO GOD?
By Doug Tjaden
February 21, 2014
Today, many pastors teach that Christians should not concern themselves with politics, and are only to concern themselves with their “spiritual” liberty. If the state becomes tyrannical, well – that is just God’s will and we are to live with it.
This is pirma facie an absurd notion. It is, in fact, heresy. We are made in the image of God. That is, we project His attributes. God is not, nor ever will be a slave. This is why at the core of their being,every human longs to be free. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to grant us our freedom – in all of its forms.
The Old Testament sends a clear message that God takes the civil liberty of His people very seriously:
• God’s own words in the preamble to the first commandment are a reminder that He delivered Israel “out of the house of bondage.”
• The deliverance from Egyptian bondage is one of the most celebrated events in all of Jewish history, because God commanded that it be celebrated by establishing “an everlasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14).
• God uses the loss of civil liberty as a primary means to get the attention of His people when they fall into idol worship and disobedience (see the entire book of Judges).
• God gave clear warning that the penalty for unrepentant idolatry and disobedience was the loss of civil liberty (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, et. al.)
• Maintaining or restoring civil liberty was conditional upon Israel heeding the call to repentance from their idolatry and disobedience. (Jeremiah Ch 3, Joel Ch 2, Amos Ch 5, Zephaniah Ch 2, Zechariah Ch 1)
The Key to Liberty
The Old Testament makes it clear how valuable our civil liberty is, not just to us, but also to God. Just in case anyone missed it, Jesus made it absolutely clear when early in His ministry, He read out of the book of Isaiah:
Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
The freedom Jesus came to give us included every form, emotional, spiritual, and civil. The Apostle Paul understood this, and introduced the concept that would be the key to unlocking civil liberty on a scale never before experienced by mankind.
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” -Galatians 3:26-28
“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” Colossians 3:9-11
No individual is greater than another? All men are created equal? This was a radical assertion in a time when kings and tyrants, along with their elite nobles, had ruled pagan nations for thousands of years. It was a new concept. Yet Paul’s letters, taken together, began to give clearer understanding on this important truth.
“Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord's freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” -1 Corinthians 7:21-23
Don’t be concerned if you are a slave. Civil liberty is coming. It’s a matter of time before people realize that all men are equal in God’s eyes. When the time comes that you can be made free, use it for God’s glory. And then, always remember that “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”
We do not realize just how revolutionary this idea was. Yet there was one little letter that explained it all.
Paul’s Treatise on Civil Liberty
In the book of Philemon, Paul penned a subtle yet profound rebuke against the institution of civil slavery. Few in words, the letter is huge in content. Its implications for mankind have been profound.
When Paul discovered that a fellow brother in Christ named Onesimus was a slave, he sent him back to his master along with his letter. Verses 8-17 form the heart of Paul’s message to Philemon:
“Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you —being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary.
For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me.” -Philemon 8-17
His letter was a very personal appeal from one Christian to another. Paul refrained from making a legalistic declaration of what he felt should be self evident to any Christian - that it is wrong to keep a fellow Christian as a slave (v8). Instead, Paul appeals to Spirit led Christian love as the reason that Philemon should grant his request and set Onesimus free. Paul’s approach sets a very important precedent. One that has broad implications, even to this day.
It is only through Christ’s love, as demonstrated by His death on the cross for our sins, that one is able to grasp the concept of man’s equality before God. Equal in sin. Equal in guilt. Yet equal in redemption and forgiveness as well! This understanding provides the capacity for one to restrain from imposing tyranny on his fellow man.
Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of governance by leaders who understand this. Thus, they codified in the Constitution, a principle first demonstrated through the divinely orchestrated circumstances of a runaway slave and his Christian owner.
“For perhaps he [Onesimus] departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave - a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” -Philemon v15
“Both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Free to enjoy spiritual and civil liberty.
Christians –The Guardians of Freedom
We have been blessed to have a form of government that explicitly recognizes the fact that “All men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them are the right, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Yet this form of government cannot exist in perpetuity unless Christians are involved. Why?
Because the words Paul wrote concerning the importance of civil liberty were written to other Christians. Unbelievers have no reason to heed them. Nor will they. Unless Christians inhabit the offices of civil government, they will eventually become subject to civil tyranny. That is clearly not God’s will for His people.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters. Civil liberty is a universal, fundamental, unalienable right that is highly valued by God! We are to serve in positions of leadership and guard liberty as jealously as God would. When we fail in that task, our nation will fall into idolatry and disobedience. Then, as has been clearly demonstrated throughout history, God will allow us to lose our precious civil liberties.
The fact that we are losing our freedoms in this nation at a breathtaking pace should be a clarion call to the church to repent, and for Christians to take positions of servant leadership in all levels of government without delay. It is important to you. It is important to your children. But most of all, it is important to God!
© 2014 Doug Tjaden - All Rights Reserved
Doug Tjaden is founder and Executive Director of the Christian Liberty Project. He is the author of “Fool’s Gold - How The Traditions of Men Have Replaced God’s Honest Money”, and is a regular speaker for the Tenth Amendment Center’s Nullify Now! tour. Doug also co-hosts the second hour of The Gun Show, with Matt Canovi, on KSGF, in Springfield, Missouri.
Doug spends his time and energy fighting to re-establish honest money through state led initiatives, and to awaken and engage the Christian community to fight for our spiritual, civil, and economic liberty. He regularly blogs at dougtjaden.com.