Give me liberty, or give me death!
We were playing a game of family feud at home a few weeks ago. One of the questions was, “what is the best thing about being an adult?” I buzzed first and proclaimed, “FREEDOM!” It was the number one answer.
“Freedom” as defined by the world is, “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” Given that commonly accepted definition, I’m sure I know what most people meant by their answer, and it’s exactly what I meant by my answer. Freedom as an adult means you can eat what you want, go to bed when you want, and wear what you want. The typical restrictions we are given by our parents as children no longer exist when we become adults.
But what the Lord revealed to me through that number one answer is the deception in most people’s minds, and the pride in most people’s hearts, including my own. We believe we are entitled to act, speak, and think as we want without hindrance or restraint! Yes, as an adult you can eat whatever you want. But is that truly without restraint? Of course not! You can eat whatever you want and, eventually, die of heart disease. I’d say dying is a pretty significant restraint. Our prideful hearts long to become adults so that we can live free of anyone telling us what to do.
But that, Christian, is so far from what God calls His people to do. God is a God of authority and submission. He is the ultimate authority, and we are to submit to Him (“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18).
But He also puts people in authority over us and we are to submit to them.
As Christians, we know that we need to submit to government unless and until the government goes against God (think: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). Paul instructed the church of Rome, “let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1-2 NKJV
As Christian wives, we know we need to submit to our husbands, EVEN IF our husbands are unbelieving (side note: this is why we must obey God and not marry those with whom we are not equally yoked, then you won’t be in the position of having a husband who isn’t submitted to God!). Peter instructed believers, “in like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives.” 1 Peter 3:1 AMPC
And as members of the Body of Christ, we are to submit to the pastors God has raised to shepherd His church. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews warns us, “obey your spiritual leaders and submit to them [continually recognizing their authority over you], for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either]. Hebrews 13:1 AMPC. Brethren, we are to submit to our pastoral leadership WITH GLADNESS or it would not be profitable TO US. God is not ever pleased with disobedience and rebellion.
In the Old Testament days, God raised up prophets and judges to lead the children of Israel, and now in the New Testament churches, God has raised senior pastors and elders to lead His people. The Apostle Paul explains it best in his letter to Titus. Paul wrote to Titus, instructing him to appoint elders over the various churches that Paul had planted, and explained the need for elders: “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.” Titus 1:10-11 NKJV .
God placed elders over His church because God knows the heart of man defies authority and is disobedient to orders. And God knows that those who are insubordinate will gossip, slander, grumble, complain, and have other idle words that will then lead whole households astray. And what does God say about such people? Their mouths must be stopped! God’s Truth must go forth instead.
One day, every single knee will bow before Christ Jesus, and every single tongue will confess that He is God (Romans 14:11). There is no escaping the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Every parent will have to answer to how they trained their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6); every husband will have to answer to how they led their wives to live sanctified lives (Ephesians 5:25), and every pastor will have to answer to how they led the church body (Hebrews 13:1). Similarly, we will have to answer to how we submitted to the leaders God put before us (1 Peter 5:5).
You see, there is no such thing as freedom the way the world sees it. We are never free to act, think, and say what we want without consequence. We are either enslaved to our sin and, thereby, walk in bondage to the lustful desires of our flesh, which will end in eternal suffering in hell. Or we are bondservants to Christ Jesus, joyfully submitted to His will and to the authority He has placed before us, which will lead to everlasting life with our Creator. Which one will you choose?
In 1775, Patrick Henry delivered a speech that convinced Virginia to enter the Revolutionary War. In this speech is his famous line, “give me liberty, or give me death!” By that, he of course meant that the American people would rather die than continue to be subjected to the British crown. I, undoubtedly, believe it is Biblical for us to defend ourselves as a nation. But as individual Christians, our motto cannot be “give me liberty, or give me death.” Instead, we live by “only through death of my will can I truly obtain liberty” (Galatians 2:20).