The context of these statements is that we are in bondage to sin but when we accept Christ we are made free from its grasp and consequences. However, Paul counsels that we should not become complacent and take this freedom for granted for if we do we will find ourselves being lured back into practicing sin once more and become slaves to it all over again. But this advice doesn't apply just to our individual spiritual salvation but it also applies with equal validity to our collective national salvation as well.
When our Founding Fathers met in 1787 to establish a constitution that was meant to form a more perfect union, that would insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty for its people, they devised a system of government that was to be controlled by the people themselves. Furthermore, the Constitution they wrote was deliberately designed to give limited powers to the federal government with the purposeful intent of giving the people themselves greater power to govern their own individual lives as they saw fit.
However, over the centuries since the Constitution was written, the Federal government has continually tried to increase its power over the lives of its citizen by passing laws that are meant to regulate more and more of our daily behavior. In nearly all cases, the stated reason for these laws is to correct some sort of injustice or inequity that the government felt was plaguing our society. Thus, nearly all the laws passed by the Federal government were designed to protect American citizens from some sort of wrong behavior.
We often hear people complaining about "greedy" corporations who use unscrupulous methods to make their money and there seems to be an increase of examples to justify such complaints. Therefore the Federal government often feels compelled to pass laws to protect its citizens from these unethical practices. However, since all laws apply equally to all businesses, any law passed to correct one form of injustice must be applied to all other businesses. Because of this, all businesses must be penalized with some restrictions to their freedom because of what one or two bad businesses have done.
However, some of these laws are passed not because any actual wrong has been committed but because someone in the government has the perception that someone or something has been or might be wronged. Therefore the Federal Congress feels it must fix these perceived wrongs for the good of the nation. Of course, not everyone agrees on exactly what is "good" for the country so some people feel that some laws reduce our freedoms for no justifiable reason.
In addition to this, more and more of our courts have rendered decisions that are not compatible with the intent our Founding Father envisioned for this country. As a result of these circumstances, more and more citizens have become concerned that we are losing our constitutionally protected freedoms and are alarmed at how much we have already lost. This has led them to wonder what they can do to restore our government back to the principles that gave us our liberty in the first place.
In the minds of many, since this is a political problem they feel that it needs a political solution and the way to do that is by voting out of office the people who currently represent us and elect new people who will respect and protect our individual liberties. While that is a necessary step, it is not the complete answer. The problem with our country is spiritual,which then manifests itself in our politics. Therefore, the real answer to solving our problem is to first fix the spiritual decay in our country and then the political climate will automatically change.
Those whom we elect to Congress don't just represent us by physically sitting in Washington, D.C. but they represent us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally as well. The reason we elect them is because they think and behave like we do and we send them to Congress because we liked what they said they would do if elected. If someone ran on the promise that they would raise our taxes and eliminate our tax deductions, no one would vote for them because those are not things people agree with. The reason people are elected who promise free money in the form of social programs is because that's what people want. Thus, even if we get rid of our current representatives, unless we, the people of this nation, change the way we think about things, the new people we elect will be no different than the old ones.
There is an old adage that all politicians lie but if that is true then it's our fault because they are just a reflection of us. If we lie in our own life we have a tendency to be more accepting of those who also lie but if we, as a nation, are the kind of people who sincerely strive to be honest in all we do, we will not tolerate being lied to. As soon as we find a politician lying to us we will either not vote for them in the first place or vote them out of office if they have already been elected.
The corruption of our government and the courts is a result of the corruption of our culture. To change our political system we first need to change our culture. Before we can restore our Constitutional principles we first need to restore the principles that our society held which produced the Constitution.
The word "culture" is defined in the dictionary as "the beliefs, customs, institutions, and all other products of human work; intellectual and artistic behavior typical of a group or class of people; The sum total of ways of living built up by a group or society and transmitted from one generation to another; Development or improvement of the mind"
The word "culture comes from the Latin word "cultura" which means to cultivate, such as in farming, but when applied to a society it connotes the cultivating of kindness and refinement. This word also comes from the root Latin word "cultus" meaning: "to worship or express adoration" and it is from this word that we get the word "cult."
A cult is defined as "a system of religious worship; having a shared sacred ideology." Therefore, to the mind of the Latin speaking people from which we get the word "culture" it was the worship of God that formed the basis of a society's beliefs, customs, and institutions which, in turn, was reflected in their art, literature, and behavior. This in turn helped cultivate, developed, or improved a society's intellectual mind so that it produced kindness and refinement among its people.
In 1818, John Adams, who was the second President of the United States, wrote in a letter, "But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."
And what was that change in the minds and hearts of the American people? In a letter dated June 21, 1776 John Adams wrote, "[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue."
However, there are many in our society today who say that morality and religion are private matters that have no place in our public life. They argue that to impose someone's morality or religious beliefs onto someone else is a violation of their freedom to decide for themselves how they want to live their life. However, this is a false premise and is not the view which those who wrote our Constitution held.
John Adams said , "Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private [virtue], and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions." And Benjamin Franklin observed, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom."
James Madison, who was the fourth President of the United States and who helped write the Constitution wrote, "What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."
Even Fredrick Douglas, the great Black American statesman said, "The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous." This was the culture that produced the Constitution. When we change that culture we change how we think about our supreme law and that influences the decisions we make about who we want to represent us in government.
But today not everyone agrees that religion, morality, and virtue are important to the security of our freedom. They say that these sentiments by our Founding Fathers are not only out-dated, old fashion thinking but, more importantly, they are inaccurate. Such critics claim that we can protect our liberties while still allowing everyone to behave according to whatever values they desire.
However, such a belief shows a lack of knowledge of how government -- especially the one established by our Constitution -- preserves our liberty.
Our Founding Fathers learned that governments do not give liberty; they can only take liberties away. Our liberties come from God and the role of government is to make sure no one takes those God-given liberties from us. The reason why our form of government makes laws is for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of its citizens.
If our rights come from a government of men, then that government has the authority to declare how, when, and where we can exercise those rights. And if we behave in such a way that violates the government's decrees, they can take our rights from us. But if freedom is a gift from God, it is our responsibility to govern our own behavior according to God's decrees and if we violate His laws then it is He alone who has the authority to take those rights away from us. What God has given, no man has the legal authority to take from us.
Six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, God sent the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel to warn them that unless they began following the law He gave to Moses their nation would be destroyed and, along with it, their freedom. Later the Lord send the prophet Jeremiah to give a final warning but when they failed to heed his words to turn back to God, the Lord sent the Babylonians who killed many of the Jews, destroyed their land, and took the rest captive. It was more than forty years later before some of those Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem where they were able to again live as free men.
At the time of Jesus, the Jews had some liberty to worship God according to their faith, but after consenting to the death of their Messiah, God had the Roman army totally destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish nation lost their freedom until 1946 when the United Nations granted their old land back to them. It wasn't until then that they were able to again live as a free people.
Our Founding Fathers understood this principle and the form of government they established was designed for us to regulate our own behavior with as little interference from a national government as possible. But, the less we are able to regulate ourselves the more laws and the bigger government is needed to regulate our lives for us.
The more virtuous people are the less likely it becomes that they will violate the rights and liberties of others, in which case they don't need any law telling them not to steal, cheat, or lie because they will do that without anyone telling them to. But the less virtuous a people becomes the more likely they are to violate the rights of others by being dishonest, taking advantage of people, and being more concerned about their own self interests than in the interest of others or that of their nation. To protect the rights of others from men of low morals, the government must pass laws to regulate people's behavior when they refuse to properly regulate themselves. Thus, the more laws we have the more it indicates the lack of morals we have as a nation.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
William Penn, who settled the land we call Pennsylvania and established the city of Philadelphia explained, "Men will either be governed by God or ruled by tyrants," and Robert C. Winthrop, statesman, Congressman and Senator said, "All societies must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have stringent state government, the more they must have individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man."
The purpose of all religions is to teach a code of ethics by which men can and should govern themselves. The Founders of our nation used the code of ethics taught in the Bible as the standard by which they formed the government Americans use today and it was upon the biblical code of morality that they fully expected Americans to govern themselves.
If we abandon the principles of virtue and integrity which the Bible teaches then our Constitution will no longer have the means to preserve our liberties. And should that day come then we will better understand the words of Benjamin Franklin when he said at the Constitutional Convention "Our government can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other."
The words of counsel the apostle Paul gave to the people of his day are just a valid for us today. We need to stand fast in the liberty which God has given us by living according to His law of morality. But if we use that liberty to live according to our own desires and disregard His code of ethics then the very liberty we have will become a stumblingblock and we shall find ourselves entangled with the yoke of bondage.
If we want to remain free and continue to enjoy the liberties we have then we must be the change we want to see in our country. We must stand fast to those principles of liberty that has made us the greatest nation on the earth and in the history of mankind. It is up to us, the people of America, to preserve the legacy of freedom that God and our Founders gave us. It us up to us to determine the culture of our society.
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