BALANCING STATE SOVEREIGNTY & HUMAN LIBERTY
Over the last several weeks, Derrick has spoken on the topic of “Citizens of Heaven living as Citizens of America.”
The primary purpose of government is to promote, protect, and preserve the people’s liberty. Government accomplishes this goal through the accomplishment of five purposes:
1. Providing social order.
2. Preserving human dignity.
3. Punishing evil & praising goodness.
4. Promoting justice.
5. Protecting peace.
A PROVOCATIVE QUESTION
What is the limit of the state’s sovereignty?
A timeless truth: The state is divinely ordained and appointed, with a divine purpose, but the state isn’t divine.
A DIFFICULT DILEMMA
How does a government exercise enough power and authority to prevent the twin evils (anarchy and tyranny) to human liberty? The challenge is finding the right balance between these two extremes, to place proper limits on liberty so we might be truly free. We have certain unalienable rights (beyond life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness):
• Conscience or religious liberty (no one can force you to believe something). (Gal 5:1 and Acts 5:29)
• The right to property. (Ex 20:15, 17)
• The right to govern ourselves as a sovereign people. (Proverbs 8:15-16)
In a technical sense, only God is truly free. Robert Wilken said, “The good for which all human beings yearn, the final end of human life, the highest good is God. It is only in God that human beings find fulfillment and perfection… only in honoring and serving God can human communities nurture genuine virtue. A just society, then, must be one that ‘serves God’… Where a people has no regard for God, there can be no social bond, no common life, and no virtue.”
A timeless truth: A proper view of the law as an instrument of justice to protect the rights granted and guaranteed by God is the only sure means of preserving liberty, for it is the only sure means of limiting state sovereignty.
A BIBLICAL EXAMPLE
Lawlessness, injustice, and a flawed belief that rights find their source in governments leads us away from liberty and toward tyranny. This has always been true, even during ancient days.
• The authority to tax, not to steal. (Matthew 22:15-22 also Romans 13)
Give to Caesar what is Caesars — give to God what is His — your life. Jesus gave a straight answer — and an enduring principle. A distinction exists between political and spiritual responsibilities. Caesar is due his tax in rightful obedience to his authority. But God is due our lives — our love, our worship, or devotion, our praise — in rightful obedience to His authority. Later in this same chapter, Jesus would remind his listeners that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all you soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
• Private property — a sacred trust. (Psalm 24:1 also 1 Kings 21:1-24)
Because God owns it all, He has the right to give what He owns to whomever He likes. A timeless truth: The state has the authority to tax, not to steal; and though it has the power to steal, it does so without authority and under judgment of God.
A PRACTICAL CHALLENGE
With these timeless truths in mind that:
• The state is divinely ordained and appointed, with a divine purpose, but the state isn’t divine.
• A proper view of the law as an instrument of justice to protect the rights granted and guaranteed by God is the only sure means of preserving liberty, for it is the only sure means of limiting state sovereignty.
• The state has the authority to tax, not to steal; and though it has the power to steal, it does so without authority and under judgment of God.
Think about and answer this:
1. What is the health of our republic as it stands here in the early part of the 21st century?
2. Have we achieved the right balance between state sovereignty and human liberty?
3. If not, are we leaning more toward anarchy or more toward tyranny?
4. What is the church’s responsibility in finding and establishing the right balance between state sovereignty and human liberty?
5. What is your responsibility, as a citizen of heaven and a citizen of the United States, to help achieve that balance?
As we seek the welfare of the city — the peace and prosperity of our communities and our country — a good place to start is to obey the greatest commandment: to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37, 39). We can love God by being the people we are called to be. We can practice justice, love, kindness, and live humbly under the watchful eye of God (Micah 6:8). We can love others by pouring our lives into their lives. We can fully engage in the life of our community and country (1 Corinthians 5:10). We can vote, run for office, join the PTA, talk with neighbors, join the band boosters, join the Kawanis Club or the Rotary Club or some other service organization, support local artisans, volunteer at a homeless shelter or battered women shelter. Seek the welfare of the city. (Jeremiah 29:7)
Material is Copyright © 2010 by Derrick G. Jeter. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.