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Defining Freedom: Choices, Responsibilities, and Consequences

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of everyone in the world to one extent or another. We have to wear masks in public and no one, including me, likes them. But we’re stuck with them for now. We have to stand in line at grocery stores due to occupancy limitations. Movie theaters and dine-in restaurants in my state and others are closed unless they have an outside patio. Governmental bans or restrictions exist on almost everything, and people want the old status quo back again. I don’t blame them, I do too.. But our society isn’t going back to the way it was for some time yet.

But that isn’t the governments’ fault. City, county, state and national governments are restricting our liberty because they have to, not because they have some secret plan. Blaming the government and defying orders to wear masks and maintain physical distancing only makes the situation worse and prolongs the restrictive orders. One maskless man interviewed by a TV news station said laws are to protect our Constitution, not our health. He has no idea of how our government works, nor does he understand what freedom is. Political freedom applies to our nation. Our ability to move areound and do as we please without undue, unreasonable limitations is our liberty. Freedom is national, liberty is personal. France gave the United States the Statue of Liberty in 1886. It now stands in New York City’s harbor.

The US Constitution is the foundation of national freedom, and it is the foundation of federal and state laws and local ordinances that protect us from each other and ourselves. And, that includes protecting our health. Our human, subjective liberty to speak our minds is restricted. We can’t slander or libel others, nor can we yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater unless there actually is a fire. So, that man was wrong. The government is constitutionally able to require mask wearing and physical distancing, which is misnamed social distancing. We are not limited socially, only physically. Telephone and Internet socializing is increasing because we shouldn’t visit others in person.

Social interaction on electronic media is increasing to new high levels.

Our Constitution is based on the biblical principles of freedom. We were founded as “One nation, under God”, and “In God we trust” is on our money. Christian liberty is entwined with God’s freedom. A Hebrew word translated as freedom in the Bible means liberty. And in the New Testament a word, translated as freedom in the original Greek means citizenship (Acts 22:28). So, a level of responsibility is attached to Christian liberty. Paul wrote that God “works all things after the counsel of His will” ( Ephesians 1:11). God, as the creator of everything, is a self-determined being acting in accordance with His own perfect nature. Self determined action is found only in God. National freedom and personal liberty, then, is governed according to how God has determined society and individuals within society should behave.

Christian liberty is founded on Christ, who is the rock, the cornerstone of our faith. (Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:8-12; 1 Peter 1:1-10, esp. v. 6). Christians are obligated to act as He has instructed us to act. He has given us the Great Commandment to go into all the world and teach others the way of salvation. God created the universe and this world and us in it for His sake, which He said is good. He didn’t create us as imperfect, sinning people without also creating the means of redemption. Thus, Christ was crucified “from the foundation of the world” as the only means by which we may return to God. He so loves us that He gave His only begotten Son on the cross so that by truly believing in Him we may return to God.

God’s grace is sufficient to save everyone. But every person must personally decide Whether or not to accept God’s offer of salvation through Christ. And, if He makes us free, we are free indeed ( John 8:36). Jesus tells us that if we know the truth He left for us in the Bible and live by that truth, then we are free: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” ( John 8:32, 36). Jesus in John 8 is telling the Pharisees that it isn’t by simply professing faith in God that would gain them salvation, it is by their doing the work He sets out for them to do because it’s their new nature in Him to do that work after they accept Him as the personal Savior that gains them salvation. Salvation is a person’s acceptance of Him as the Savior. Works are the fruit of that acceptance. Works are the evidence of a Christian’s faith in something not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

The Pharisees claimed that because they were Abraham’s children and were never slaves they had salvation. Jesus warned against their false belief, and their unbelief in Him. They must believe in Him as God and their Savior before they would gain salvation: “I said therefore to you that you shall die in your sins, for if you believe not that I Am, you shall die in your sins” ( John 8:24; 58; 18:5,8; see John 8: 32-47).

Jesus seems to have contradicted Himself on first reading of John 8. He spoke of the truth-Himself- as setting them free, but in the next breath He said A Christian must follow Him. That seems to create a paradox where there isn’t one. He was speaking of setting one free from sin, because whoever sins is the servant of sin. Inversely, people have a choice, the liberty to decide for themselves whether or not to become a Christian. They follow Christ because they have decided they want to follow Him, not because they are forced or coerced to.

Liberty, or freedom, is the absence of coercion or force. It is the ability to make on’s own decision to believe and act in a way when the are able to believe or act in another way or ways. People are Christians because they have exercised their God-given liberty to choose Him over sin. And, in so doing they have become free of sin and the penalty for past sinning.

The eternal answer to Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is yes, we are our brothers’ keepers. We have secular and Christian obligations to look out for our neighbors. In the pandemic, this means wearing masks, physical distancing, staying home as much as possible and following all other government mandates. This is not just to protect ourselves, it is to protect our families, our children, and others’ families and children. Nobody likes this. I don’t like it, but I follow the guidelines. Recent history has shown that it is not following the guidelines that has allowed the virus to spread like wildfire. It is no coincidence that the states with the most inviting beaches, Florida, Texas, and California, have exponential growths in the amount of COVID-19 cases.

If we fool ourselves into believing that -for whatever reason- our minds can generate that we don’t have to follow safe practices we not only prolong the amount of time we will be required to wear masks and keep our distance, but a good chance exists that by not following the guidelines we could be responsible for one or several deaths from the virus and therefore indirectly responsible for the sickness and death of people to whom they may spread it.

A well-used expression is freedom isn’t free. It isn’t, and neither is liberty. Jesus said that in the world we will have tribulation (trouble) and we certainly do. He followed by saying to be of good sheer, because He has overcome the world ( John 16:33). And through Him we also overcome the world’s problems, including this virus. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and that light is Christ. He is the light of the world, and in Him we gain a transcendental incandescence that shines out to others. Let’s keep or focus on His light so we can get through the COVID tunnel as quickly as possible.

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