The word liberty comes with a lot of baggage in our United States culture. We view our national history through the lens of liberty. We define our sense of freedom by our secular liberties. And few things cause us to get more vocal than times we feel our liberties are being stifled. “Give me liberty, or give me death!” “Live free or die!” To many of us, liberty is the single most valuable concern.
Unfortunately, we sometimes value liberty to the point that it becomes an idol. Think about Galatian 5:13–15:
For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pulling this out of context. This is really about misusing our spiritual liberties, but these words continue to come to mind these days as Christians react to, protest, and even defy the social restrictions related to COVID-19. I’d entreat you to consider that you might be idolizing your personal liberties if:
- You are OK with potentially infecting others so you don’t have to be inconvenienced.
- You downplay information that contradicts your assumptions so you don’t need to feel accountable for your actions.
- You express your frustrations in ungodly ways.
- You feel the freedom to make your own choices outweighs the danger your choices pose to others.
Consider also Philippians 2:1–4:
If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
We all need to look out for others’ interests before our own. This period of social isolation severely tests that commitment. Who is the more powerful deity in our lives — Jesus Christ who calls on us to sacrifice self for the sake of others or Rand-style Liberty that seductively whispers to us that our own interests trump all else?
There’s a pro-life quote that’s frequently misattributed to Mother Theresa: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” We must not become so morally impoverished that we are willing to threaten others lives so that we may live as we wish. In fact, the entire Christian call is to give up living how we wish and instead live as Christ would have us.
Show deference to others. Value others’ lives as more important than your physical liberties. Remember the liberty you have in Christ instead — an eternal liberty that nothing can separate us from. Put your hope in that, and then be patient with all else.