Should Christians Be Concerned about Individual Liberty in Crises?

“Give me liberty or give me death,” was the infamous cry of Patrick Henry just prior to the Revolutionary War.

Something deep inside the human heart seeks freedom. Freedom from tyrannical oppression. Freedom from control. Freedom from conscience. Freedom from consequence. Freedom from pain, guilt, and sin. Freedom…from God.

As with most human desires, the quest for freedom can lead to a righteous or unrighteous end. It can lead to a more just society, or it can lead to a society ripe with abuse and discrimination. It can lead us to God, or it can lead us to an exaltation of self.

The topic of individual freedom has come to the forefront of many debates in the wake of our current global crisis, and will likely continue. Some say that we must not allow our individual rights to be trampled. Others say that clinging to such rights is selfish—we must prioritize the collective, the “greater good” of all.

Too many [Christians] are spreading conspiracy and demanding their ‘rights’,” said one online commentator in a heated exchange.

The concept of individual rights is ingrained in the American way of life, it is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, but the quest for liberty must have a holy perspective if it is to accomplish a holy objective.

This topic isn’t easy, and the answers aren’t cut and dried. But studying it provides critical insights into the events of our day.

Let’s first examine the topic of personal freedom in light of Scripture.

What does the Bible have to say about individual liberty?

A lot, actually.

Individual liberty is a persistent theme throughout Scripture. It shows up just a few pages into the Good Book. And, we’ll see, that it shows up again at the end, and it is sprinkled all throughout.

In the garden, God established the personal liberty of human beings as He created a paradise with only one rule: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17-18)

Do not eat from that tree—it’s not a long list. But just a few chapters into Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve exercise their personal liberty, or free will, and break the one and only rule.

The consequences are catastrophic. All of human history has been tainted by that single act of freedom.

I’ve often wondered why God put that much power in the hands of one man and one woman. It seems…reckless. Their individual liberty cost all of humanity paradise. They did not just forfeit this treasure for themselves, they forfeited it for everyone.

Have you ever wondered why God allowed free access to that tree? If it had been up to me, I would’ve manned it with armed guards. Adam and Eve would have stayed more than six feet away from that tree. Forever.

But I’m not God, and Scripture teaches us that before the foundations of the earth, Yahweh had a plan. He knew that His children would fall. He knew that our individual liberty would harm us. And He knew that He would have to forfeit his liberty to save us. (1 Peter 1:20-21Ephesians 3:9-11)

In that context, I marvel at the value God put on our freedom. He knew the astronomical cost it would bring to those He created and to Himself—and He gave it to us anyway.

God put the highest price on our liberty as He paid the highest price to redeem it.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Joaquin Corbalan

Individual liberty causes great harm throughout Scripture, but so does collective power.

In the Old Testament, we continue to see the disastrous consequences of mankind exercising free will. And we see powerful civilizations collapse. In Noah’s day, “Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth.” (Genesis 6:5-6)

For many generations, men and women used their liberty to rebel, and the result was another great fall, this time a worldwide flood.

But then in Genesis 11, we see the first concentration of human power in collective form.

After the flood, humans unite to make a tower to save themselves. Instead of receiving God’s promise never to flood the earth again, man determines to produce his own salvation, an edifice soaring into the sky—a monument that would not succumb to a flood.

This concentration of human power disturbs God. Greatly.

He says, “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6) So God confuses their language and scatters them “over the face of the whole earth.” (vs. 9)

How curious.

Why does this coalesced display of human power concern God? Why does He thwart man’s unified creativity and ingenuity by making it impossible for people to communicate?

Collective power can cause greater harm than individual liberty.

“The answer is in mankind’s capacity to turn gifts into curses (Genesis 3:17-19), and abilities into abuses. The flood had not changed the nature of sinful human beings. A powerfully united humanity, inclined to do evil, could accomplish great wickedness. No matter how perverse, outrageous, or ridiculous something might seem, mankind can and will attempt it, given the opportunity.”

Human beings can turn the gift of liberty into a curse. We can use our freedom to abuse others. This is costly on an individual level, but the Tower of Babel shows us something more distressing—collective power, a “powerfully united humanity,” can cause exponential harm.

Consider this astonishing fact: God didn’t stop the exercise of individual liberty in the garden, but He did stop the exercise of collective power at Babel.

The implications of this truth are staggering.

God allows individuals to taint all of humanity, all of creation, with sin through the exercise of their individual freedom. But He does not allow a worldwide concentration of human power to “save humanity” through what they perceive to be good, not even for a minute. He nips that prospect in the bud.

Why?

We don’t know what is truly good in the same way God does. And our inability to perceive good from evil is bad for the individual, but it is disastrous for the collective, for a “united humanity.”

The story of Scripture is clear—the Egyptians, the Amorites, Hittites, Caananites, Perizzites, and Jebusites, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and the Israelites—individually they harm themselves and others. Collectively they harm nations. They harm the world.

The Bible teaches us this time and time again, and so does history. In nations where liberty is denied to the individual, great atrocities occur.

So, then, Scripture restricts the use of collective power while giving individuals free rein?

Not so fast…

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What does Jesus teach us about individual liberty?

Into this complicated narrative of individuals and nations, the Son of God is born.

Jesus of Nazareth arrives on the scene and ministers to a very oppressed people. The Jews expect a Messiah to come and deliver them from the tyranny of Rome, from a united, powerful, evil regime.

He doesn’t do that.

Instead, He delivers humanity from the tyranny of sin. He delivers every willing person from the compulsion to use our personal liberty to harm others and ourselves.

The long-awaited Messiah comes, but He doesn’t conquer nations. He conquers the human heart.

How?

By sacrificing His own liberty. By giving His life, Jesus liberates the human soul from sin and death.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

But why did He start with the individual? Why didn’t He confront the evil empire ruling the world?

Because—God cannot heal a nation until He first heals the individual souls that comprise it.

Temporary salvation may come to a group of people, to a nation, but eternal salvation comes only to the individual who kneels at the foot of the cross, to the one who lays his or her liberty down and accepts God’s grace.

In short, we are not saved as a nation. We are saved as individuals.

What does Jesus say about collective power?

Curiously, Jesus says little about the governments that preside over us, only to give to our leaders what is due them. (Matthew 22:21) But Scripture does leave us with a set of overriding principles that guide our personal behavior and shape our collective action.

The New Testament church “shared everything they had,” (Acts 4:32) as the Apostle Paul encourages us to “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Personally, we are to deny ourselves liberties that may harm others. This message is clear in Scripture. (1 Corinthians 10:24)

But does this mean we are to sacrifice our individual rights for the good of all?

Scripture does not say this. As mentioned before, collective power has the potential to do exponential harm. God prevents collective power at Babel but not individual free will in the garden.

So where does this leave us?

Should we prioritize individual liberty or the collective good?

Throughout Scripture and human history, we see this dangerous dance: the rebellious exercise of individual free will causes whole nations to rebel against God, but the absence of personal liberty causes a dangerous concentration of power that oppresses people

Which should concern us more?

The answer, quite simply, isn’t either/or…It is both.

Our personal liberties must be used responsibly. Scripture shows us time and again how the reckless use of our individual freedom leads to great harm.

But we must also recognize that forfeiting our personal liberties comes at, arguably, a much greater cost.

Power can be a toxic force, especially when concentrated, especially when the people are given no recourse of defense. Unbridled collective power has led to the greatest atrocities in human history, the greatest harm. A nation that reveres individual liberty is the best-known antidote to these horrific global outcomes.

This is the lesson of Scripture. This is the lesson of history.

Bible open to book of RevelationPhoto Credit: ©Sparrowstock

Finally, what does Revelation teach us about individual liberty?

Let’s consider one last example of individual freedom in the Bible that comes from Revelation. It is sobering. This prophetic book tells us that those who refuse to take the mark of the Beast, which allows people to buy and sell, will die. (Revelation 13:16-17) It is fear that causes these individuals to forfeit their personal liberty.

To be clear, the fear is legitimate. The prospect of homelessness and starvation is not a pleasant one. But these men and women sell their individual freedom for a bed and for their daily bread. Fear causes them to forfeit their personal liberty and brand themselves with the anti-Christ.

Scripture confirms another truth that history has shown—there is no greater fuel for concentrated power than fear.

This end-time prophecy about the danger of forfeiting our personal liberties bookends Scripture’s lessons on individual freedom:

We see that in the garden, Adam and Eve abuse their personal liberty and invite a curse into God’s creation. Jesus sacrifices His liberty to redeem us from that curse, to buy back our freedom. And in the end, those who sell the freedom God purchased at the cross, sell their own redemption.

So, we can rightly conclude from Scripture that the issue of personal liberty is not a selfish one—but individual liberty can be used selfishly. As Christians, we must stand in opposition to the selfish use of our freedoms, and we must have rigorous debates about what that means.

But we must not forfeit these liberties, and we must not trust that all in power have God’s good in mind.

In short, the abuse of individual liberty may harm other individuals, but the forfeit of individual rights will harm every individual.

Where does this leave Christians in the debate about individual rights verses the collective good?

Simply put…always be willing to give up a personal liberty to help your fellow man. But do not sacrifice the individual rights of all, for without such rights, no man can be free, or safe. And a free and safe society allows the Gospel to be spread, which is our only true salvation in this life…and in the life to come.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kardd


Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, blogger, and motherhood apologist. She is matron of the Mere Mother website, which delves into critical cultural issues that affect families and marginalize mothers. This homeschooling mama of five is dedicated to helping mothers see their worth in a season when they often feel overwhelmed and irrelevant. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on Facebook.

Hazardous to Your Health

NIGHT LIKE FOR COUPLES

“So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Malachi 2:15

Writer Pat Conroy, after telling his three daughters that he and his wife were divorcing, said he felt like he had “doused my entire family with gasoline and struck a match.” The painful effects resulting from such stress and guilt are not just a temporary problem. Dr. David Larson, a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist and researcher, has observed that all types of cancer strike divorced individuals more frequently than married people. He has also noted that premature death rates are significantly higher among divorced people and that being divorced and a nonsmoker is only slightly less hazardous than staying married and smoking a pack or two a day. In the 1960s, the surgeon general declared cigarettes harmful to the smoker’s health. More recently, researchers have warned us about the dangers of foods high in fat and cholesterol. Perhaps it’s time someone issued a warning about the health risks of marital conflict. Ripping “one flesh” apart is one of the most devastating experiences in life. There must be a better way to deal with conflict.

Just between us…

  • Is the state of our marriage affecting our health?
  • How is divorce hazardous to a person’s spiritual life? (See Malachi 2:13–16.)
  • What can we do this week to promote our physical and emotional health?

Dear God, we receive this reminder that the damage done by broken marriages extends to the body, mind, and spirit. We humbly ask for Your help to make divorce “not an option” for our future. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Divorce research material from Home with a Heart by Dr. James Dobson (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996).

Times to Laugh

NIGHT LIKE FOR PARENTS

“God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:6

Kids are a wellspring of humor if you look for it. For instance, there was the mother who was making phone calls in the family room while her three-year-old daughter and five-month-old son played together. Suddenly the mother realized that the kids were gone. Panic-stricken, she raced down the hall and around the corner, where she found them playing cheerfully. Relieved but upset, she shouted, “Adrianne, you know you are not allowed to carry Nathan! He is too little—you could hurt him if he fell!”

Startled, Adrianne answered, “I didn’t, Mommy.” Knowing that Nathan couldn’t crawl, the mother demanded, “Well, then, how did he get all the way into your room?” Confident of her mother’s approval, Adrianne smiled and said proudly, “I rolled him!”

This story reminds us that when King Solomon began his quest to discover the meaning of life, he believed that laughter was “foolish” (Ecclesiastes 2:2). But when he investigated further, he realized that God orders all things according to His purposes—that there is “a season for every activity under heaven” (3:1), including “a time to laugh” (v. 4). On those days when your toddler rolls your youngest offspring down the hall, you may discover that the most godly response is not one of anger or disapproval. You’ve entered a new season—a time to laugh.

Before you say good night…

Are you usually lighthearted or serious around your kids?

Do you approach life with a sense of humor? If not, why?

Thank You, Lord, for those lighter moments along life’s road. Please don’t let us become so intense and tightly wound that we can’t let loose with a good, long laugh now and then at ourselves, our children, and our circumstances. Amen.

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

10 Most Educated Countries (reblog)?

For most countries, the average education level of the population can be an indicator of its financial stability and literacy rates. It can even contribute to how healthy the country is overall. With all of this in mind, do you know which countries rank as the most educated in the world? While you might be able to guess a few, there may be some countries on the list that surprise you. Here are the top 10 most educated countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Luxembourg

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Luxembourg comes in as the smallest country to make the list. The country has only around 615,70 residents. Luxembourg is a landlocked country, surrounded by Germany, France, and Belgium. According to the OECD, 87% of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed at least a secondary education (compared to the OECD average of 84%). Also, 54% of residents in this age group have completed at least some level of higher education. Maybe this has something to do with why Luxembourg comes in as the wealthiest country in the world.

Norway

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It probably comes as no surprise that Norway ranks among the most educated countries. The European nation consistently ranks high for various quality of life factors, including healthcare, environmental awareness, and overall happiness. Colleges in Norway are tuition-free, which gives citizens greater access to higher education. The rate of adults with higher education has been increasing in Norway, and the country saw a 5% jump from 2007 to 2017. In 2017, 48% of adults aged 25 to 34 had some level of tertiary education.

Finland

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Another country with free education, this Scandinavian nation ranks among the most educated in the world. It’s not just Finnish residents that can take advantage of the free education. Non-native residents can get free schooling, as well. The Finnish education system is a stark contrast to that in the United States. Some key differences are that Finnish children receive 75 minutes of recess every day (as opposed to 27 minutes in the U.S.), there is no mandated testing until the age of 16, and most teachers stick with the same group of students for at least five years. It’s no wonder Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for two years running.

Australia

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The land down under just barely misses the top five when it comes to the percentage of adults who have a higher education. An impressive 52% of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed higher education courses. The country also ranks among the highest level of citizens who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is despite how Australia has some of the highest tuition rates in the world.

United States of America

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Public opinion on the state of the education system in the United States varies, depending on who you ask. The country is known to have an unbelievable amount of student debt, and tuition continues to be on the rise. On the other hand, the United States has some of the best universities in the world and is one of the world’s strongest powers. So it’s probably not surprising that the U.S. comes in smack dab in the middle of the top 10 most educated countries. The U.S. Census estimates that 59% of adults have completed some college.

United Kingdom

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One thing that sets the United Kingdom apart from other countries is its focus on early education. The country sees high enrollment levels for young children. Education is a top priority for citizens as reports have shown a direct correlation between education level and pay. In fact, one study found that residents with upper education earned on average 48% more than their peers without upper education. The United Kingdom is home to two of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.

South Korea

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South Korea places high demands on its students. Consequently, the country has a high number of adults with upper education. When it comes to students graduating from secondary school, Korea ranks number one. 98% of citizens graduate from secondary education. South Korea also ranks number one for attaining tertiary education, with nearly 70% of its residents completing some higher education.

Israel

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The education system in Israel is different from those in most of the world, but it still ranks as one of the best. In Israel, most schools are divided by the student’s faith. It is also not uncommon for schools to include weapon training. Because of its strong focus on education, the country has more university degrees per capita than any other country in the world. According to the OECD, nearly 25% of all residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Japan

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It may be hard to believe, but Japan does not come in at the top spot when it comes to education. Though the country is world-renowned for its education levels, it falls just short of number one. The amount of tertiary schooling comes in at a staggering 60% for adults between the age of 25 and 34. While the country has one of the highest percentages of adults expected to complete a bachelor’s degree, it has one of the lowest levels for doctorate degrees. Just 1% of its citizens are expected to attain a doctorate.

Canada

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Canada just barely edges out Japan when it comes to adults who will complete some amount of college. A whopping 60.9% of Canadians between the age of 25 and 34 have completed some level of college, whereas that number is 60.4% in Japan. There seems to be some level of correlation between education level and happiness because Norway, Finland, and Canada all ranked among the happiest countries in the world.