A FREEDOM-BASED SOCIETY
It is the nature of Christianity to bring freedom to all men. In the historical context of Jesus’ statement, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32), Jesus was not referring only to spiritual matters, but freedom to walk the way of God that would deliver people from the bondage of the Jew’s religious/political way of life (Judaism). It was a way of walking in sin, for the system separated people from the commandments of God (See Mk 7:1-9). Paul elaborated more on this walk of freedom in Christ in his letter to the Galatians: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty [freedom] by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gl 5:1). The word “entangled” assumes a behavior of life that brings bondage. Reference was to more than “committed sin,” but to a religious/political way of life and ideology that separated the adherents of such from the freedom that Jesus offers. Jesus brought (1) freedom from the confines of sin, (2) freedom from the bondage of man-made religious/political systems as Judaism, and thus, (3) freedom to think free in Christ. It is in this realm of freedom that Christians have the opportunity to be the best they can be without being intimidated into bondage by the religious/political powers that may prevail. When Christians are guaranteed their freedom through submission to God, they can be the best they can be in a society that guarantees both religious and political freedom. And when we are personally the best we can be, society as a whole prospers. Herein is the secret to establishing a prosperous nation. As someone once said, “Just as freedom from sin for the individual can be found only in Christ, even so, can the freedom of a nation be found only in Him.”
What the religious leaders of Judaism did not realize at the time when Jesus made the statements of John 8 was that He was bringing the people freedom from the bondage of their religious/political system. In Galatians 1:14, Paul also had this freedom in the background of his thinking when he reflected on the bondage he promoted as part of the Jew’s religion. “And I advanced in Judaism above many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gl 1:14).
When the religious traditions of the fathers is connected with the politic of the people, then there is a theocratic political party that is advanced by zealots as Saul (Paul). The people at the time of Jesus were in bondage to this man-made theocratic political system that was upheld by military men as Saul, and religious leaders as the scribes and Pharisees (See Mk 7:1-9). It was this political system that Jesus confronted. It was a theocratic system that was far removed from what God originally instituted through the giving of the law to Israel on Mount Sinai.
The Judaism of Jesus’ time, as Islam today, was a political/religious ideology that included faith and state. The weapons of the Christian against such ideologies are spiritual (Ep 6:10-20), but the weapons of those who seek to maintain such political/religious ideologies are carnal. It is for this reason that many African countries will not allow an Islamic Party, as the Muslim Brotherhood, to exist in the politcal system of the country. They realize that such political parties will seek to use the “sword” of the state to advance the religion of the party. And such tried the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt when they were briefly in power in Egypt in 2014.
As in our relationship with God, so in our relationship with one another under the rule of law. If one seeks true freedom, he must always bring himself under the rule of law. But for a country to be united, everyone must come to an agreement that there will be a separation between religious law and state law. This is necessary lest we establish a theocratic government, and then one particular religion seeks to bring all the citizens of the state into their religion by using the laws of the state. And if any citizen does not “convert,” then he must be exterminated.
There is a reason why the American civilization flourished from its early beginnings. The freedom of America was based on the fact that oppressed people from all over the world could find freedom of religious thought that was guaranteed by the new and unique constitution that separated religion and state, and thus gave the individual citizen the right to be truly free without the intimidation of some other person’s religious faith. By the thousands, oppressed people from around the world fled to this constitutional society of freedom. They continue to do so today.
Illegal immigrants are found in truly free nations, not in nations that are governed by despots or religious authorities who keep the people in bondage. It is interesting that people still flee to the religiously free West in order to escape the religious oppression of the countries from which they have fled. We thought it interesting that the March 1, 2013 Time Magazine reported that many Roman Catholics become evangelicals when they arrive in America. It is true that we can often find free nations by the direction in which immigrants are fleeing.
With the right to be free in a free society, there is the opportunity to think freely. And when men and women think freely, they come up with all sorts of ideas and inventions. Societies that do not allow free thought will always be those societies with companies that violate copyrights and patents in order to copy the inventions of a free market society. America can thank God for the culture of freedom that was first revealed through Jesus Christ, and written within the pages of the New Testament for posterity. The New Testament principles of freedom, not laws, actually made their way into the American constitution, and then established a freethinking culture, and thus an industry based on invention.
God knew that people would prosper if they were only given the right to think freely. What made America great was this spirit of freedom that was renewed through Jesus Christ. It was the central goal of the writers of the American constitution to guard freedom of thought and movement. The result of this document is what we now witness today as the “American way of life.”
The constitution guaranteed the freedom, and free men prospered on the moral foundation of the word of God. This does not make the New Testament the constitution of the state. It only reveals the moral foundation of freedom upon which a free-thinking constitution was written. Upon the foundation of such constitutions, every person of society has the opportunity to prosper upon the basis of the principles of being free to prosper. Therefore, we must always keep in mind that when the statement “rule by constitutional law” is used, what is meant is that “rule of law” guarantees the freedom of the people to be fruitful.
Several nations of the world have failed to prosper because they have been submitted to the bondage of traditionalism, or struggle under the dominance of oppressive and corrupt dictators, regimes and religions. When there is no freedom, it is usually not the fault of the people, but some social figure or institution who seeks to keep the people in bondage.
When societies enforce the traditional thinking of the fathers on the people, then there is little room for free thinking and new ideas. Change for the better in these societies is often accomplished through social chaos which no one likes, and thus, everyone shuns. In Africa, tradition (“this is our culture,” as it is commonly stated) has crippled the development of the continent for centuries. But this is rapidly changing. Europeans first revealed to people some idea of what freedom can produce. But when the colonials left with either funds for roads, schools and hospitals, what came next was oppressive and corrupt dictators who would not allow the people to think and act freely for themselves. A humble civil worker was not allowed to make a decision on his own unless he checked with some higher authority. And for this reason, the business dealings of such cultures ground to a crawl as one authority on top of another was consulted until a final decision was eventually made for a business to function. “Red tape” is simply another way of saying, “We are in control.”
In South Africa we have always had fun with real estate agents who struggle with an archaic system of transferring house ownership. In South Africa it takes about 7-8 weeks of red tape to transfer the ownership of a house to a new owner. In America it takes from 3-4 days. Now spread this snail-pace business culture that is stuck in a quagmire of red tape throughout most of the business dealings of the economy of Africa and you can understand why African countries will never compete with truly free-market economies. Then consider the fact that South Africa is one of the most efficient economies of Africa. But on the optimistic side, throughout Africa this “red tape” control culture is slowly vanishing away as a new and educated generation immerges. The best is yet to be in Africa.
Strong traditionalism, both in cultural interaction and business dealings, is a manifestation of apprehension, if not fear. It is apprehension about change. It is apprehension about making mistakes. It is a fear of losing the identity of our heritage in order to accept and adopt something new and better that brings greater prosperity for the future. And now we know why a world view with deeply embedded Bible principles releases nations from fear in order to prosper in an environment of freedom.
When faith replaces fear, then God can do great things in taking entire populations out of the archives of the past and poverty in order to set them on their way for a better future. This is the world as God would have it. God said to Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gn 1:28). God meant that Adam lead humanity into prosperity through that which was created. Religions that bind people to poverty in caves are not from the God who created us with the ability to be fruitful.
There has always been too much concern about China taking the economic lead of the world away from America. It is certain that this will eventually happen, but please keep in mind that presently there are 1.4 billion people in China competing in this race against only 230 million people in America. Because China is new on the world economic scene in reference to being a free-market economy, it still takes over a billion people to complete with a few million in order to win the economic race. But just watch China. A new nation is slowly being born. Christian faith is growing at light speed within the country. We cannot but conclude that the same spirit of freedom that grew America will grow China. Freedom will eventually change the culture as the Christian youth assume the direction of the country in the decades to come. Just watch what God does with this nation as millions are moved by faith in His Son in order to discover freedom to work and think. China will become a great and noble nation far beyond what we see today. The transformation has already started. President Xi of China is tackling corruption, and the youth of the nation are tackling Satan with Christ. China is on its way.
Oppressive government is never sustainable. It is not sustainable because God created within man the desire to be free. Islamic government that is reflected in theocratic systems as ISIS and the Taliban, seek to take people back to the Dark Ages. Such political ideologies exist only because of the leaders’ power over the people who are held in bondage by fear, just as it was during the ministry of Jesus and the early Christians. It is simply not natural for men to be in the bondage of fear, and thus, the citizens who are captivated by the bondage of such ideologies always seek to think freely. If they cannot within their own societies, then they become a refugee in one wherein they can think freely.
Regardless of oppressive governments, people still seek to be free. We recently listened to the CNN interview of a 30-year old man who was born in a North Korean prison camp. From the day of his birth, he lived 24 years in the prison until he escaped. Before his escape, all he knew was prison camp life. But if prison life was all he knew, then why did he have the urge to escape, which he did at the age of twenty-four? From where did this inner urge to be free originate? It came from God, for God created us to be free and to think freely, and through free thinking we would develop a better life for ourselves. For this reason, God wants to free people in order that they enjoy the abundant life. Maybe this will help us better understand what Jesus meant in the following statement: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10).
Jesus not only took care of our sin problem that was introduced into the world through Adam, He also restored a way of life that Adam sacrificed because of his sin. Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden so that by the sweat of his brow he would have to toil the ground in order to survive. But in Christ, we continue to toil the ground, but we do so in appreciation for all that God did for us at the cross. The only motivation Adam had to toil the ground was the hope of eating the fruits of his labors. The Christian farms the ground in appreciation for the fruit that will eventually come from the cross.
Freedom of thinking and movement is a precious thing. We must never forget that it is always Satan’s goal to destroy the freedom of men in order to bring them into the bondage of religious/political systems the lead us away from God. With freedom, therefore, comes the responsibility to always seek truth. Paul explained in Ephesians 4:11,12 the ministries of teaching the truth. The reason these ministries were instituted among God’s people was explained by Paul in Ephesians 4:13,14:
… until we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a complete man, to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men in the cleverness to the deceitfulness of error.
Crafty men who seek power will always seek to steal away the freedom of those over whom they seek to be dominant. Does this help us understand why truly Islamic states do not want the young girls to be educated? When ISIS or the Taliban take over a city or region, the first thing that must go is education, especially education of the women. Freedom must be contained in order that men might be dominant over women.
An ignorant people can never be a free people. And thus, an ignorant woman can never be free. Dominant husbands have forgotten, or never learned, that in cherishing their wives, it is their job as the head of the wife to lead the wife to be the best she can be. And in order to lead one’s wife to be the best she can be, a husband must lead his wife by love, not dominating his wife through fear. But this social scenario can never happen in a truly Islamic state.
A society that is built upon the nature of God, is a society that is humanitarian. It is a society in which the inhabitants care for the poor and unfortunate. It is a society wherein one loves his neighbor as himself. And since God is defined as love, then we understand that the roots of a truly humanitarian society can be traced back to the peoples’ concept of a Higher Power who was lovingly benevolent to them. If the citizens of any nation find the one true and living God, then they will develop a humanitarian society.
Societies that are built on false gods that are created after the imagination of greedy, power hungry megalomaniacs are controlled by fear, not love. These created gods are oppressive since their inventors have sought to create and maintain power over the people. The adherents of such false gods become intolerant of any “apostates” (dissidents). Thus the creator of these gods kill those who oppose them, or those who disagree with their religious faith. They behead the apostates in order to purify their religious state.
The theocracy of Israel under Old Testament constitutional law was to prevent what transpired and led to the necessity of the flood of Noah’s day (See Gn 6:5). By the time of Noah, all humanity had become useless for that which it was created, that is, to populate heaven. With Israel, God ushered in a theocracy wherein the state, with Him as the only King, was to preserve faith. The Old Testament guarded Israel against the idolatrous nations that surrounded Israel and were predominant in the world.
We must keep in mind, however, that Israel was only one nation, one state, a segment of the world populations through whom God would bring the Redeemer into the world. It was not the purpose of Israel to make all nations theocratic states as Israel. Israel was to be unique among the nations. The Old Testament law that was given specifically to Israel, was meant to keep Israel separated from the nations. Jonah did not go to Nineveh in order to make an Israelite state out of the Assyrians.
But now, radical Muslims seek to make the world of nations, one nation/state that is governed by sharia law. By doing this, they seek to use the “sword” of the state to threaten citizens into the one-world theocratic state of Islam. God never did this with Israel. All the theocratic laws of the Old Testament were meant to preserve, not propagate the state of Israel. Muhammad forgot this point because of his little understanding of the purpose of the Old Testament, and his military ambitions.
We need not wonder what the goal is of people as Omar Ahmad, the founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations:
Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Qur’an should be the highest authority in America (San Ramon Valley Herald, July 1998).
And his fellow operative, Ibrahim Hopper, the director of the above organization, stated,
I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future (Minneapolis Star Tribute, April 1993).
The same God who created the theocratic nation of Israel was the same God who so loved His creation that He gave His only Son (Jn 3:16). This is the God who commissioned that the gospel be preached to all the world (Mt 28:19,20). He did not commission the apostles to preach a catechism of law by which all secular nations would become one theocratic nation. The one nation that is created by the preaching of the gospel is spiritual. It is not of this world (Jn 18:36). Through the preaching of the gospel, the Christian seeks to bring all men into Christ wherein all are one man in a spiritual kingdom (Gl 3:26-29). For this reason, those who come into Christ do not have to burn their national passports. Every Christian can have dual citizenship, one in the earthly state in which he lives, and one in heaven to where he is going.
The God of love is not promoted by terrorists who seek to “denationalize” the world in favor of a universal citizenship of one Islamic state. God only will eventually be the terrorist of those who reject Him by the creation of their own gods. And since God is defined by love, then His love sets us free to love. We thus love because He loved us first (1 Jn 4:19). If we are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, therefore, there is no terror in love (1 Jn 4:18). And we know that we are not truly free until we love, even our own enemies. Oh, how wonderful is the one true God of heaven. No imagination of the most intellectual and moral person of earth could have ever created Him with human reasoning. It is for this reason that we know that He is the true and living God.
[Tomorrow’s lecture: Early Beginnings of Islam]