In the Name of Liberty

The Byars Bunch – Independence Day 2021

Fight vigorously against the wolves, but on behalf of the sheep, not against the sheep. And this you may do by inveighing against the laws and lawgivers, and yet at the same time observing these laws with the weak, lest they be offended, until they shall themselves recognize the tyranny, and understand their own liberty.

MARTIN LUTHER

Fear is the tool of Satan and those that wish to take from us the liberty that has been promised to us in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is a gift that we receive freely but was given to us at great cost in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. We no longer need to stand in fear of the lies of the deceiver. That is the importance of hearing the Word of God every day. At a minimum, we need the Word weekly as we come together and enjoy the divine worship. The picture above is my reminder of the need to defend that liberty for my children. The defense comes only through the Word of God. That is our heritage as Christians. As a nation of Christians, that is the heritage given to us by the forefathers who sought to ensure that freedom for our nation. As a follower of Christ, I never had thought much of this until the Pandemic of 2020 that continues to linger about how fragile our liberty truly is. This is not only for the Church but for all citizens. How quickly we have been willing to set aside our own liberty for the sake of security.

As I reflect on this reality, I am reminded of the unity to which our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to and how we are called to stand fast within the truth that our Lord gives to us. “When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.‘” (John 13:31–35, ESV) We are to reflect the Gospel in the world. That begins as we shine out the light of Christ into a world that more often than not has no understanding of what it means to truly love another or what it means to be loved unconditionally.

The love of Christ is not based upon conditions, simply belief. His love does not fall away from those that do not believe, but those who deny His love are lost to Him and, like at the gates of Jerusalem, our Lord weeps. As we stand firm in this love, the greatest thing we can stand for is the truth of Jesus Christ. We live in a world that is lost. This concept is lost to them, in a world where conditional acceptance is a norm to know that the love of God is found even when one may be living a life that is contrary to the principles laid out for His people by God. We mustn’t confuse acceptance with approval, however. God does not approve of the sinful aspects of any of our lives, but He accepts us in spite of our brokenness. We are not meant to willfully continue in sin, but we are changed in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To protect our liberty, it is time for us to speak up and speak out as followers of Christ. We need to speak out the truth in love and not be afraid or ashamed about holding a biblical faith centered in Christ’s love and redemption. There is a world trying to shut us out and silence our voice that is so vital for life. The world is seeking to still our tongues by teaching a false narrative that acceptance and approval are equal and the same when the contrary is true. They act as though their views are truly diverse, but the reality is that they are very intolerant of any view that differs from theirs, and they are the least varied. They demand that each person approves of the same things they approve, and the converse is also true. If they disapprove of something, they feel it necessary that everyone also disapproves. They seek to shut down the voices with which they disagree. This is tyranny and is contrary to liberty. As followers of Christ, we stand for liberty and the freedom that all have as people who are made in the image of God. All people should be treated with dignity. We have fallen short of this in the past, and for that, we should repent and ask for forgiveness. The errors of the past, however, do not diminish the truth that we proclaim.

Acceptance does not mean that we have to always agree. Offense is a choice which we need to learn to not fall into also. When we are offended, we give the power of our voice over to the other. As followers of Christ, this is something that we need to raise up in the next generation. A generation ready to share the Gospel to a world that will find it offensive and will be doing things that are offensive and contrary to the Word of God. We mustn’t allow that offense to stop us from speaking the truth in love. We also need to prepare ourselves and our children to understand the basic truths of the faith and understand the nature of our Constitutional Republic. The rights given to us in the United States allow us to exercise our faith in all areas and places, not just within our sanctuaries. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give anyone the freedom from religion, but we are given the freedom to exercise our faith in all places. We can pray in the center of every city, and governmental institution and those that wish to participate have the freedom to participate. The same is true for those that do not wish to participate, this does not mean that we must prevent it from touching their ears, but we, at the same time, need to respect and not press them to participate. At the same time, it does not give those who oppose the right to attack or interfere with the free expression of our faith either. This is a truth that has been lost by many in our society. The moment that one can not be heard, the other’s rights may be quickly taken as the winds of change turn as they do, and tyranny will be the rule. Freedom is expensive in that it means that at times to protect it, we must also protect those views which we may find offensive.

As I celebrated Independence Day, I was strongly reminded of this reality. I hope that we can restore to our children the nation that was given at great cost to us those 245 years ago. How much blood has been shed to protect it? In our nation, we have seen a significant rise in the tyranny of those who have deemed themselves the purveyors of truth. Instead of reporting the truth, we have had to suffer through a media that has sought to protect a narrative and has openly sought to shut down the free expression of views with which they disagree. We have seen our government be utilized to shut down ideas with which certain leaders disagree and have seen powers abused by governors all in the name of “safety.” Our liberty comes first and foremost from our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our protections come from neither party but from an educated public willing to stand firm on the foundations given to us first through our Lord and second through our Constitution, which was influenced by godly principles. Have there been failures and shortcomings? Most certainly! That does not diminish the greatness of the country which we call home, and to be proud of our nation does not mean that we are intertwining our faith with the politics of our nation, but we are just standing with pride in the nation which God has placed us. The majority of faithful Christians that are also Patriots and show a love of the United States of America realize that the dogma and ideals of our nation are not always in line with Christ and that neither of the major political parties is a perfect representation of our faith. When it comes to the politics that we face, I believe faithful Christians are in both parties. I believe that it is becoming much more difficult for those who have long identified with the Democratic Party because of stances that have become more openly professed in their platform and candidates. Still, one could argue that there are also issues within the Republican Party, particularly for those who had issues with former President Donald Trump. No party offers candidates that fit perfectly in the Christian box because all are flawed. This is not meant to jump down the rabbit hole of the partisan politics that we face today.

Today, however, we do have an issue with narratives driving our news cycle, our social media, and all aspects that have put a squeeze on open discourse and the exchange of ideas. The concept of “Fake News” and “Misinformation” has only made things worse. I believe for open dialogue it requires an openness to discuss ideas and various viewpoints. Growing up, I knew many who stood on the side of free speech and stood against the banning of certain books because they put forth difficult ideas. As Christians, we have a history of wanting to remove books from libraries because of profanity and open sexuality and were accused of being fascist for our desire to limit the freedom of speech and exchange of ideas. Today, those that expressed that mentality desire to remove anything that stands for traditional Christian values. They desire to cancel those who speak or express views that are contrary to the narrative. If we speak about the cis-gendered understanding that all human beings are created as male or female, we are intolerant and narrow-minded. It is a sad reality and a genuine attack on liberty. The scales have shifted, but I caution that this shift is only temporary and would urge caution so as not to allow it to continue in the direction it is going. I see it as more of a pendulum move. If we know anything about a pendulum, when it moves to one extreme, it will eventually swing back further to the other side. This is where liberty is in the most significant jeopardy because a reactionary response is not usually healthy.

What is the answer? Well, I begin by stating that I believe it is a return to the biblical Christian faith. We start by speaking the truth in love and being steady in our response and in how we care for those in need. In the culture wars that we have seen within the United States in the 50+ years, we see the bodies of those that have been crushed. The response to the movement that arose in the 1960s was the Christian Coalition. The response to the Christian Coalition we see now in the Progressive movement that has arisen, and this great conflict has come to a head with President Trump. Whether a person likes him or not, he is a product of where we are today. The momentum will not stop as the pendulum is continually being tugged deeper into the Progressive mindset, which is centered in tearing down the traditional structures and ideals that have shaped our nation and our faith. Because of this, we have seen a rise in extremism on both sides of the spectrum. It is vital for us as Christians to stand firm in a faith that upholds biblical principles beginning with those laid out for us in Genesis 1-11 defining us as those made in the image of God and of a common ancestry that for all extend from the Tower of Babel and the sons of Noah – Shem, Ham, or Japheth. We all are united in the common ancestry that began with Adam and Eve and was spared through Seth by the saving work of the Ark and Noah.

As we stand firm in this understanding, we can break down barriers and point to how the division has pointed us further and further away from our Lord and Creator. We can point the saving work of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross. The power of Baptism and the Cross is the work of salvation never ends. It is a continual process working within each and every one of us and reminds us of where true liberty comes from – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can come together as brothers and sisters united in the faith of Jesus Christ and pray for those that are struggling. We can pray for an end of violence. We can work together to feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, and proclaim salvation to all who are being held captive in the bondage of the deceiver. As Christians and Americans, our work begins in our communities but spreads to the end of the world.

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