Our God of Liberty

by Mike McKinniss

1280639In a letter to his wife Abigail dated July 3, 1776, John Adams penned an exulting paragraph:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.  It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfire and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Why was Adams so celebratory?  Because the day before the Continental Congress had resolved to declare a final break from British sovereignty.  Adams and his colleagues from all thirteen colonies had voted for independence from England.

The day after Adams wrote this letter to his wife, the Congress adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which includes this one remarkable and memorable sentence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was no accident that these two founding fathers used the language they did.  From the very first days of English expeditions into the Americas, the pursuit of a fresh start free from the persecutions of the Old World with an opportunity at a better life – these were at the very heart of the colonist’s soul even as early as the 1620’s.

So Adams, reflecting on the decision to secede from Britain, likened the event to Israel’s great Exodus from Egypt.  A “Day of Deliverance” he called it.  Although we may not call the early Americans slaves of England, freedom was the sensation Adams and his compatriots felt in those early days of July, 1776.

Liberty of any size and scope is worth celebrating.  It is at the center of God’s heart.

That’s right: The God of the Bible is a God who embraces liberty.

Consider: When Adam is placed in the garden, he is free to eat of any tree, even while he is warned against taking the fruit of one in particular (Gen. 2:16-17).

Consider: The nation of Israel is formed into a people on the basis of their freedom from slavery.  Liberty is literally the preamble of their formative document, their covenant with the Lord (Exo. 20:2).

Consider: The ultimate expression of God’s heart for liberty is Jesus himself.  Jesus stated liberation as the major plank in his platform, the hallmark of his calling (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isa. 61:1-2).  Moreover, the gospel writers consistently set Jesus in the context of bringing Israel through a second (and greater) exodus.  Mark 1, for example, is littered with exodus themes (a quotation of Exodus 23:20; Jesus passes through a river into a promised land; Jesus wanders in the wilderness for 40 days).

The God of the Bible consistently embraces liberty, and so it ought to be celebrated on any level it might be found.  Whether it’s freedom from a financial burden, freedom from a destructive pattern of behavior, political freedom to speak or act, or freedom from the weight of your past; liberty is always worth an exultant shout.