God's "Perfect Law"! (James 1:25)
Simply stated, “liberty” is God’s law; it’s a word that summarizes all of God’s laws into one term. Liberty refers to God’s moral laws for human actions and the freedoms He gives outside of His law; to live “at liberty” is to live a life in obedience to moral laws, while enjoying human actions which aren’t restricted by the laws (commonly known as “liberties” or “freedoms”). “Eleutheria” is a Greek word the Bible uses in James 1:25 which translates to “law of liberty”, for which the same verse calls God’s “perfect law”; one of the definitions of this word found in a Greek lexicon is: “True liberty is living as we should, not as we please”.
Of course, given that all humans are born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), no one can ever truly “live as we should” as lovers and glorifiers of God apart from having a spiritual rebirth; and even then, our obedience to God is only increased over a lifetime of being conformed to the image of Christ (sanctification). Believing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is the only way to be set free from the slavery of sin, or slavish rebellion against God, and be conformed into His image as a “doer” of liberty (James 1:25). Everyone needs to believe this Gospel message; that Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place, taking on the wrath of God’s judgement which is due for our sin, and that those who repent from their sin, or turn away in their heart from it, and trust in Him as the substitute in their place for judgment, will be saved and are reconciled into right relationship with God. Only through believing this message can a person truly attain to this “liberty”, this “eleutheria” that the Word speaks of. However, the notion is “liberty” is not merely restricted conceptually to humans in a sense of salvation; liberty as a construct of God’s law is a far reaching concept that encompasses God’s design for all of life, especially and centrally in what is commonly called the “civil” sphere. Simply said, even if someone rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are no less bound to obey the laws of God, and disobedience to such laws is to be met with civil punishment as a biblically sanctioned image of God’s wrath (Romans 13:4). It is this reality of liberty, that God’s moral laws are to be the basis for all systems of jurisprudence, and the basis for human behavior in all jurisdictions of life (conscience, family, church, and civil government), that will be subsequently expounded upon.
“For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” – Romans 13:4
Liberty is focused on moral laws which bound human behavior and tell us how we ought to live amongst one another; as it is used biblically, liberty is a term which summarizes all moral laws into one word. To make a simplistic analogy, if we had a blank white piece of paper on the table in front of us and we said that all of the white space represents any action a human might ever make (running, cooking, murder, etc.), then “liberty” could be represented by a circle that we draw on the paper, where anything outside of the circle is unlawful (forbidden), and anything inside the circle is lawful (a “freedom”). In this example, “liberty” refers to both the outline of the circle, which represents the laws that restrict human actions, as well as the freedoms inside the bounds of the circle (the “allowable” white space).
This is key: liberty refers to both laws and freedoms; when a law tells us what we’re not allowed to do, it also inherently communicates what we’re “free” from the law to do. If a sign at the park says “closed between 9 PM and 5 AM”, then we also know what time the park is open. Living a life of “liberty” means pursuing an understanding what moral laws are to bind mankind, and by understanding what laws we are to be bound by, we simultaneously discover what we are free to do! For example, if we’re seeking to know if AR-15s are morally lawful to use for self defense, all we must do is consult the moral authority to see if any moral laws exist against them; if not, we’re free to use them! That of course begs an answer to the question: who is the moral authority?
Obviously, discussion of “moral laws” on human actions implies that humans are moral beings, and that there is a moral authority which provides the laws humans must obey; in order to understand the moral laws which define the bounds of liberty, we must identify the moral source for the laws. The Christian Bible certainly teaches that humans are bound by the moral laws of God, and similar realities are stated as truth and foundational to the American form of government in the founding document called the Declaration of Independence; in the very first paragraph of this document, “Law of Nature and of Nature’s God” are stated outright as the moral authority and binding on humans. Taking such statements to be truth, the document then later lists one massive implication which is biblically accurate and worth discussing in some detail, namely: moral laws set by God, summarized as “liberty”, become “inalienable rights” of mankind.
The idea goes like this: when a moral authority (God) sets a moral law which requires human obedience, every human is therefore given a “right” to obey that law. In other words, every human should be protected and un-obstructed in their pursuit of obedience to a moral law of God, provided that their obedience doesn’t violate other moral laws of God. For example, if God had a moral law which said “every human must pray on Mondays”, then no other human being should get in the way or obstruct a human seeking to pray on Mondays, unless they’re violating some other moral law in doing so. To continue the example, say God has a moral law stating a person’s house and property is private and that no-one can trespass without permission. If a human then comes along and tries to pray on their property on Monday without consent we have an issue of violated rights, and therefore a violation of liberty! Though the person seeking to pray on Monday is indeed morally obligated to do so, they are also morally obligated to obey the rights to private property of their fellow citizen and not trespass on their property.
Even in such a trivial example we can see very quickly how drastically important it becomes to have the correct and unified moral authority for determining which moral laws of liberty, and therefore “human rights”, exist; if more than once source of moral authority is chosen, then we quickly end up with competing and conflicting definitions of liberty which results in genuine violations of people’s God given rights. In addition to displaying God’s holiness and righteousness, one of the primary purposes of God’s perfect law of liberty is to protect humans from one another, which can be clearly seen through God’s laws like “don’t murder,” “don’t steal,” and “don’t commit adultery”; if we get the laws of liberty wrong and decide, based on some alternate moral authority, that murder is OK or defined differently than God’s law say it is (such as in the case of abortion), we end up with large societal conflict and evil as the two sources of moral authority compete to govern how humans interact with one another.
A very real example of such a conflict is the violation of property rights occurring under “duty to retreat” laws in the America. God’s law is explicitly clear about human’s right before Him to own private property and defend it with the use of force if necessary (Exodus 22:2); this mean that before God there is no “duty to retreat” from one’s private property in face of assailants, neither violent or non-violent (as in the case of a “thief” at night in Exodus 22:2), and their is no moral law what-so-ever against displaying weapons and threatening force if the assailant does not comply. Therefore, properly understood from the biblical moral source, God’s law of liberty protects home owners in the defense of their family and property with nearly any means necessary (yes, including AR-15s with high capacity magazines); in other words, like in our theoretical example of praying on Mondays, if humans are given a law of God which affirms their right to defend private property with force if necessary, then no human or human institution (a.k.a government) should obstruct them in doing so. On the contrary, our neighbors and government are obligated before God to stand for and protect us in our right to defend our property as His law facilitates; “duty to retreat” laws therefore violate our right to liberty as properly understood through God’s revealed law.
As in the case of Exodus 22:2, God’s law of liberty does have nuanced considerations which must be thoughtfully applied, such as in the matter of home defense. In this scriptural example there is the implication that if a thief (a.k.a someone who only intends to steal and not harm) breaks in during the day, as opposed to “at night”, then there is some obligation on the homeowner to seek to resolve the situation peacefully without killing the thief, because they have the ability to see and perceive the complete nature of the circumstances given that it is day time; at night when most lights are off, and especially when a homeowner may be woken abruptly from sleep, discerning the nature and intent of an intruder is all but impossible, and God’s law clearly acknowledges this by protecting a homeowner who kills someone who may have only had intent to steal and carried no weapon. If in the day time, however, the “thief” pulls out a weapon, or the thief does not comply with the homeowner’s requests and becomes a violent assailant who resists, then the “thief” is no longer simply a thief but becomes a genuine threat to the homeowner and family; at this point we progress from lawful defense of private property, with some restriction on use of force under God’s law, into a new area of God’s law regarding defense of one’s life from an attacker, for which God’s boundaries of liberty expand greatly to include dealing a fatal blow in self-defense.
Even in light of such nuanced considerations of God’s law, the injustice of “duty to retreat” laws is unchanged because, at their core, duty to retreat laws try to strip citizens of God-given rights to protect their private property; God’s law clearly protects home owners in their right to defend themselves, their family, and their property, and in no way requires “a person who is under imminent threat of personal harm” to “make a reasonable effort to avoid confrontation” . As seen by God’s law in Exodus 22:2, if it’s night time and a homeowner is at home and even thinks there is an “imminent threat of personal harm” from an intruder, which later proves out to be false and it was just a simple thief, the homeowner is free and clear of having done any sin or injustice under God’s law for having killed the thief. Ultimately, what we see exemplified by “duty to retreat” laws is a civil perversion of God’s perfect law of liberty which emboldens criminals and lawlessness, and removes the Godly rights and civil moral order which is to protect the institution of family, property, and therefore inheritance; such laws are an overt assault on God’s created order and law of liberty for His creatures.
What we learn from such an example is the extreme importance in understanding a “right to liberty” as a protection, instituted by God, towards humans to obey Him in what HE asks, and not simply what the state or our neighbors operating outside of His laws desire from us. To claim an “inalienable right” to liberty from civil government, as was done in the Declaration of Independence, and as is supported biblically by God’s law given in the form of His commands as previously discussed, is to rightfully lay claim to a civil government order that should defend its citizens from foreign and domestic threats to their obedience to the higher moral order, not the suggested moral order of their neighbors or their government. Historically and biblically speaking, civil governments use the power of “the sword” (Romans 13:4), otherwise known as coercive force with weapons, to enforce moral order, or liberty, within society, which includes collecting taxes for its operations in doing so (Romans 13:7). As a result, grave consequences follow when a civil government, that is tasked with using coercive force to defend citizen’s right to liberty, decides to change the boundary laws of liberty to an incorrect moral authority; the result is the use of coercive force, which includes threats of fine and imprisonment, to force citizens to adhere to laws which our true Creator did not give to us, the end result of which is corrupted human nature, and therefore corrupt societies and communities, and a government that over taxes and extends itself into areas of life that God did not authorize it to operate.
Almost no better example exists of the corruption of government and social order that occurs when the defining laws of liberty are mis-understood than the United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. The declaration contains a list of articles detailing all of the rights which the U.N. believes are inalienable to the “human family”, meaning they are rights which they submit governments must necessarily guarantee for their citizens using coercive force and taxation as we discussed previously; the U.N. outright admits in the declaration, stating: “that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”. Included in the U.N.’s articles are the following “human rights”: medical care, housing, “security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood” (all from Article 25); “free education” (Article 26); “favourable work conditions”, “equal pay for equal work” (Article 23), abstractly defined “social security” for the development of an individuals “personality” (Article 22), and ultimately a right to homosexual marriage and families through Article 23 which elects not to specify marriage as a union between a man and a women thereby necessarily implying homosexual inclusion.
With such broadly spanning and loosely defined rights it is of no question why governments around the world, the U.N. citing over 70 civil treaties citing their declaration, are being swept away in the currents of socialism and massive tax burdens on citizens under threat of punishment; with such “rights” requiring “rule of law” from government to be enforced, government must grow ever bigger and more consuming to guarantee such false liberty. Appropriately, a government that grows to such a state has classically been referred to as a leviathan. Clearly then, the root problem behind such governments which replace the moral authority of God over humanity with itself and grows to be a leviathan is plainly obvious: the denial of Jesus and the perversion of His perfect law of liberty.
Among the extreme negative side effects of wrongly defining liberty and giving government more power than God has given is the destruction of other “jurisdictions” of liberty which God has instituted; namely, the Church and family. God has indeed given commands, which are therefore moral laws for humans, that touch on many of the items listed by the U.N. as “rights”, but He relegates them to very specific “spheres” of social order, known as jurisdictions. Key do defining and defending liberty is clarifying which jurisdictions are responsible for which commands; getting it wrong has historically proven to result in much violence and harm to social order, especially as it becomes further detached form God’s laws through the direction of the civil government.
Where the U.N. tries to relegate concern for the disabled, widows, elders, and education to government, God’s commands as found in the Bible, and therefore His law, is that family and the Church provide for such needs amongst citizens. Studies abound which cite fatherlessness and the breakdown of the Christian, “nuclear” family structure as the source for a host of societal issues, and the results of indoctrinating children in “state” schools is proving out now in the West as it descends further and further into social and moral anarchy; in relegating such false “rights” to the government, the roles of the Church and family are removed from society and the resources which God has given laws to protect for such institutions to function are transferred to the civil government, which is wholly in-adequate to provide for such needs of humans and was not instituted, designed, or given just power by God to do so.
As it turns out, absolutely none of the “rights” previously cited from the U.N.’s list fall biblically under the jurisdiction of civil government; they are all relegated to the other jurisdictions of family, Church, private charity and non-government services, or are completely against God’s law, such as in the case of homosexual marriage and “parenting”, which is also a clear violation of “natural law” or natural order as ordered and coded by God’s law. In actuality, it is beyond egregious to suggest that needs like “medical care” and “housing” are inalienable rights of all citizens under a civil order; ultimately, in such cases, a relativistic, utopian, false moral authority of humans has decided that all citizens of nations are responsible for covering the housing and medical costs of their neighbors, the latter of which in a majority of cases are the result of living in a world corrupted by sin that contains cancer and disease, or from personal vice, negligence, or accidents. The idea that bureaucratic, wasteful, bloated government could ever manage and provide for the medical needs of all citizens through costly, coercive taxation on citizens is un-reasonable and un-tenable, let alone un-biblical; none of which is to mention the perverse incentive structure which results that incentivizes a welfare society reliant on government taxation and currency destruction through money printing, and which creates a large portion of society over which the biblical command “if you don’t work then you don’t eat” ought to apply.
Ultimately, as the American Declaration of Independence states, and even the U.N.’s declaration in Article 3, “liberty” is in fact an inalienable right of mankind; however, it is a right that requires great depth of definition and clarity from a unified moral authority to avoid the inevitable societal conflict and disorder which results when it is corrupted. Recognizing this reality requires seeking for and submitting to the proper moral authority from which the laws of liberty come, and faithfully building a nation’s civil and societal order from them in order that everyone’s true inalienable rights may be known and protected. As history, true reason, and eye witness testimony confirm, the true and proper moral authority for the definition of liberty’s laws is the Christian God, Jesus Christ, existing also as “Father” and “Spirit” in the holy trinity, who revealed His law through the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible; all nations and civil governments are under His authority (Romans 13:1, John 19:11, Psalm 22:8,Isaiah 9:6), they’re even called His “ministers” (Romans 13:4), and are covenantally bound to conform to the laws of His kingdom, lest they find themselves on the receiving end of the following promises from scripture: