Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“The Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Paul, in 2Corinthians 3:17
In the early 1770s, Patrick Henry made one of the most famous speeches in American history. In a rousing speech during one legislative session in Virginia, he eloquently argued for independence from England for the American colonies. His stirring conclusion, memorized and echoed many thousands of times by succeeding generations of children in American classrooms, included the famous line, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
I was thinking of that line as I drove home the other day, when the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “That man was a fool.” And then he showed me why. A truly wise man just asks God, “Give me liberty!” He doesn’t make death an option because he doesn’t want to die. In Christ, liberty is available, so why not just ask for liberty? Why even throw death in there as an option? Mr. Henry made a great impression on his fellow legislators that day, and Virginia took a leading role in rebelling against King George, but that is only because they were fools, too. They asked for liberty or death, too. And many of them, and their sons, received death instead of liberty.
The way of true liberty is the way of righteousness, and “in the pathway of righteousness is life, and in the pathway thereof, there is no death” (Prov. 12:28). If the kind of liberty you want is the kind that men can give, they might rather kill you than to give it. Then, why give men the option to choose between giving you liberty or death? Why ask for one of those two things when God is freely offering the kind of liberty you don’t have to risk your life to receive?
Sister Lou once said, “This whole world is fooled!” That means this whole world is filled with fools. And the fools of this world are constantly pursuing the kind of peace that other fools give. But Jesus offers a peace that the world can neither give nor take away. He told his disciples just before he paid the price for our sins, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I don’t give to you the way the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. . . . I’ve spoken these things to you so that in me you might have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 14:27; 16:33). Jesus pleaded with sinners to let him set them free, but fools have always preferred the dangerous liberty this world gives to God’s free gift. But the world’s liberty is not really liberty at all, for it always comes with a high price tag. It always brings with it more shackles than it takes away. This is why Jesus said, “If, then, the Son makes you free, you’ll be free indeed” (Jn. 8:36). God’s liberty is real.
We don’t have to convene an assembly and vote to demand angrily that Jesus give us liberty or give us death. We are already dead in his eyes, and the liberty he freely gives makes us alive. Only fools pursue the kind of liberty that might bring them more death besides.