“Give me liberty or give me death” ~ Patrick Henry, 1775
I was recently reminded that this famous quote comes, as quotes are wont to do, with context. Additional context of Henry’s famous quote is as follows:
“It is in vain, sir, to extentuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
The “matter,” of course, was the colonies’ unrepresented position under a taxing England, but let’s not get bogged down in a History lesson.
My comments are in response to the contemporary notion of liberty, freedom, and like. (While I understand the historical significance of the American Revolution, I think we’ve lost the notion of freedom, and have overlooked some of the problems the our connotation of liberty brings onto the field.)
I’ll lay my cards on the table…
Freedom (as defined today) is a double-edged sword. Freedom means I get to do what I want. Freedom means you can’t tell me what to do, because this is what makes me happy (or worse, how I was made). I’m convinced this is because freedom from something inevitably makes us slaves to something else. Today, society praises the individual–their rights, their opinions, their decisions. But I’m not convinced that individuals make all that great of decisions. A lot of peoples’ opinions are…wrong. And how often does the right of one person infringe or harm another? I realize I’m speaking in the abstract..I can become concrete if anyone would like, but I don’t want to lose you on a tangent pet-gripe if you’ve got one (if anyone is reading this…)
But, as a Christian…
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!” Galatians 5:1a
But the rest of the verse urges that we “not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” This is the problem with the individual being free. Individuals are sinners (groups are too, but at least there are one or two hypocrites who will, from time to time, call a sin what it is). Perhaps Adam and Eve were seeking the Freedom of being like God when they chomped the forbidden fruit? I know that at the end of the day, if I have freedom, I’ll misuse it. I know that the first thing I’ll do is slip back into the shackles of sin. I’d rather have a Master Who is kind and forgiving, a Master who is love. Does this mean that I always get what I want?
Thank God I don’t get what I want. I’ve had some stupid ideas for what would make life better, the church better, the world better. I’m glad there’s community to say, “Dustin, that’s just dumb.” I’m glad there’s a great cloud of witnesses that testify to what Christ’s bride is. Because in that community, it becomes less about the freedom I deserve, and more about the grace I receive as pure gift.
Note: I may edit this after I reread it in a few hours. Just spilt a few thoughts onto the empty page. Feels good to write again.