About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

Home Page

  Liberty Has Limits


Our western-world as we know it today turned a cultural corner during the late sixteen hundreds and seventeen hundreds in the era known as the Enlightenment.  It was the age of reason, when a humanistic rationalism ruled the approach to the universal issues of life.  The influence of the Enlightenment on the West, especially on America, was profound.  Among other things, and in contrast to the sovereignty of a king or a state, it proclaimed the sovereign civil liberties of the individual, inalienable rights, liberties that no one can take away.      


The emergence of individual civil liberties has produced an ongoing conflict between the rights of the individual and the rights of the community in which the individual lives, whether that community is local, national, or even a church community.  Conflict arises when the rights of the individual infringe upon the rights of the community, or, when the rights of the community interfere with the rights of the individual.  Balancing these rights is the battle we fight in our courts, a battle being waged in our highly politicalized Covid climate.    


Morally speaking, and that depends on how you define morality, I have the right to wildly swing my fists anywhere and everywhere.  I do not, however, have the moral right to swing my fists into someone's face.  In like fashion, the state has the right to maintain law and order.  It does not, however, have the moral right of abusive dictatorship that strips away individual rights.  On both sides of the conflict, rights and liberties must always be in review, because liberty has limits.    


The Bible addresses the issue of individual rights, and thus, the topic of this article.  You might say that God gave Adam the liberty to choose when He gave Adam the opportunity to obey or disobey His command.  Unless you are a Calvinist, which I am not, you might say Jesus gave us the liberty to choose when He said "whoever will believe will be saved."  Biblically speaking, we do have the liberty of free individual choice, but not without consequences and limitations. 


In New Testament terms, when we hand our lives over to Jesus, He becomes our Master and we become His servants.  Our servant master relationship places limits on our individual liberties.  Our liberties are to be determined by Jesus' command to exhibit sacrificial love to all.  Liberty, is thus, limited by love.  For that reason my fists will never hit someone's nose.  For that reason, Christians must not exercise their rights in a way that hurts either another or the state.  We live by its rules of conduct of the heavenly kingdom, as was implied by Jesus as recorded in John 18:36.


"Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.'"


In other words, and by implication, Christians have no right to step beyond the limits of liberty set forth by the heavenly kingdom.  We do not use physical force or any other misuse of liberties in the promotion and defence of the cause of Christ, and if we do, we destroy our mission to make disciples of Jesus.  The Enlightenment era may have provided the West with certain individual inalienable rights for which we are thankful, but as Christians, our allegiance is to the heavenly kingdom where our liberties are limited by love.   




Home Page