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Freedom To or Freedom From?

Updated: Mar 3

The Alpena News


JUL 1, 2023


Everyday Faith

As the American Revolution was about to come to a boil, our beloved country was in absolute turmoil over what to do about the conditions England had laid out for their vision of what this new territory was to become. British soldiers walked the streets and occupied neighborhood houses.

What to do?

In John Adams’ own writings, he confessed that only about one-third of the people were in favor of a revolution. One-third were adamant supporters of the “mother land”, and one-third waffled in between.

There are times where it could be considered foolish to desire a war, but, at other times, it could be foolish to think war was avoidable.

In that environment, when a potential war loomed, one pre-revolutionary story explained that a particular business owner went out daily before his shop was supposed to open up and looked up and down the street to see who was there. If he saw British or British supporters, that was the flag he flew for the day. If he saw supporters for the new nation, he flew that flag for the day.

That businessman didn’t want to take a side and only worked whatever angle was profitable for the day. He did what was convenient for himself, trying not to pick a side.

All the heated debates and consternation that created such an uproar was over the topic of “freedom,” and, to some degree, the power of the people’s conviction regarding it.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, freedom is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

But the question that immediately pops out to me based on that definition is: Does or should freedom have boundaries?

In lieu of that, let’s take a look at a different definition. Dr. Tony Evans defines freedom in his book “Kingdom Politics” as “the unimpeded opportunity and responsibility to choose righteously, justly, and legally pursue one’s divinely created reason for being.”

In both of those definitions, you see words utilized with similar connotations — “without hindrance,” “without restraint,” or “unimpeded.”

But notice the differences there in focus. From a human standpoint, freedoms provide the “right” for us to do something. And that is much of our culture’s current focus — what I get to do.

However, to go back to the revolutionaries, their focus would very much have been on a “freedom from” something.

Did they want a world where they had the freedom “to” worship as they wanted? The freedom “to” speak without hindrance? The freedom “to” have a press that accurately shared the events of the day?

Absolutely, and we see those items make their way into the U.S. Constitution later on, but, before that could ever happen, they also had to have a recognition of their “freedom from”.

They first had to cut and sever the life they had had with Britain. They needed freedom from them to become what they were supposed to be. And, with that “freedom from,” they also inherited an incredible responsibility to make sure their focus was in the right spot.

As Dr. Tony Evans suggested, freedom was to be “unimpeded,” but, in “one’s divinely created reason for being.” No government, social club, church, or public entity was to interfere with one’s God-ordained divine reason for being.

Throughout the Declaration of Independence, the signers acknowledged God’s purpose and reason for being multiple times, starting with the very first line, where it says “… to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate to equal station which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them.”

Later on, it says, “… they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Not only does that reference God as the creator, but it also says that all people are born with those “rights” at birth.

The last paragraph of the Declaration adds, “… with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence…,” showing their utter reliance on God’s protection for the stand they were taking.

I would simply suggest that a proper understanding of freedom this Fourth of July is one that focuses on “freedom from” first and then “freedom to” later on.

The story of every Christian bears that resemblance. Each believer can tell you from their own story what Christ set them free from. The “freedom to” with the rest of life automatically stems back to the “freedom from.” And with the freedom we gain does come a tremendous responsibility: the responsibility to shape the culture, mores, and values society lives and operates by.

Only one-third of the original revolutionaries held the deep-seated conviction that what they were fighting for was indeed a righteous battle … because they truly were being impeded in their process to become the people God divinely created them to be. Their conviction to achieve their freedom ran deep, and, ultimately, breathed life into a fledgling nation.

They didn’t start their days by looking to see who was walking up and down their street, and they didn’t rely on the other two-thirds to get the job done, either.

Our question today is if we still have that same kind of conviction, whereby we seek to impact the culture around us, understanding what exactly we have “freedom from.”

As Patrick Henry stated in the middle of that tense time, “It cannot be emphasized too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14.

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