Can there be such a thing as a problem of too much freedom? At a time when we’re legitimately trying to regain some freedom and especially equality in our country, it sounds wrong to even ask. And yet, we must also admit that there are often unintended consequences to good ideas that are poorly planned and implemented. Like with pretty much any good concept, it can happen in the situation below. Or anywhere, for that matter. In this case, I thought of at least one before even getting to the end of the article from the N Y Times.
Here’s what’s happening in Seattle, where the story comes from.
On the streets next to a police precinct in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, protesters and officers spent a week locked in a nightly cycle of standoffs, at times ending with clouds of tear gas.
But facing a growing backlash over its dispersal tactics in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the Seattle Police Department this week offered a concession: Officers would abandon their precinct, board up the windows and let the protesters have free rein outside.
In a neighborhood that is the heart of the city’s art and culture — threatened these days as rising tech wealth brings in gentrification — protesters seized the moment. They reversed the barricades to shield the liberated streets and laid claim to several city blocks, now known as the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
In case you’re thinking that it’s a riot zone, that’s not what happened. Not yet. Although, if you only listen to our president, you might not think so. Here’s Trump’s take on it:
“Take back your city NOW,” Mr. Trump wrote in a tweet directed at Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee. “If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game.”
And the Mayor’s response:
Ms. Durkan responded with a tweet of her own: “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker.”
So what is happening? So far, very peaceful, in Seattle.
However, there are some issues that will have to be dealt with:
The demonstrators have also been trying to figure it out, with various factions voicing different priorities. A list of three demands was posted prominently on a wall: One, defund the police department; two, fund community health; and three, drop all criminal charges against protesters.
But on a nearby fence, there was a list of five demands. Online was a list of 30.
And there’s the heart of the problem. Different people want different things. That turns into different groups of people wanting different things. Which turns into some groups will get what they want, while others won’t. The question comes down to an issue of compromise.
The problem of too much freedom – how to compromise
Let’s take just two issues and see what happens with compromising when there’s too much freedom. When I say “too much freedom”, I mean when we pretty much start from scratch, which is what’s going on in this Seattle autonomous zone. And probably in most situations like it. Well, except for the reality that we never really start from scratch.
Let’s start with the Christians in the new zone. And let’s look at how they view “compromise”.
|Compromise forbidden with:||Supporting passage|
|Unbelievers||2 Cor 6:14-18|
|False teachers||Gal 1:8-10
2 John 7-11
|Spiritual Darkness||Eph 5:11|
|Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1996). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index (p. 149). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.|
That looks like a lot of non-compromise situations! Is it really that bad? Let’s take a quick look at the examples.
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with the ungodly
Ps 1:1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
Ps 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Ps 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Ps 1:4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Ps 1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
Ps 1:6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Oops. Not only is this not too much freedom, there’s not much room for any compromise there. And you know what? There shouldn’t be. The catch is, this isn’t about governmental laws! This is about people choosing to follow the God of the Bible. God’s laws, not ones people made up. Or not. Notice the word – choosing. And the words – or not. God gave us a choice. Governmental laws do not. True – there’s a price to be paid either way. However, government laws are not applied evenly and do not extract justice evenly either. God does.
Not only that, but when we have so many denominations of Christianity that can’t agree on what God’s laws are, we can’t even compromise with each other! How can we ever hope to govern when we can’t do that? One more reason why people shouldn’t even try to force their religion on everyone else through government laws. Or learn their religion from the government.
Who will win out in the end? Atheists? Baptists? Methodists? Non-denominationals? Someone else from the myriad other groups? No matter what, lots of people will be unhappy. Will they sit quietly by? Will they vote out the current leaders, assuming there even is voting? Will they revolt? Something else?
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with evil
Huh? Evil in a passage called Love? Let’s check it out.
Ro 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is all good stuff. Until it becomes a law from the government. Like Psalm 1, who gets to decide what’s evil? You can’t just have a law that says love everyone. Defining evil requires more laws. And those laws will get people upset because we have different views of what constitutes evil.
And that’s assuming everyone is at least a basic Christian. Non-Christians won’t necessarily love everyone else and will probably have a very different view of what’s evil and what isn’t. More problems. More chances to get mad at each other. One more time – how can these be resolved when Christians are told not to compromise, and we insist on making God’s laws the forced law of the land? Is that having too much freedom?
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with unbelievers
2Co 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
2Co 6:17 “Therefore come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
2Co 6:18 “I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
2Co 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Most Christians probably think this one’s not a big deal. We tend to hear about this passage being about not getting married to a non-believer. Of course, if the government law was that a Christian marrying a non-Christian is illegal, that would bother some people. If it said a Baptist couldn’t marry a Lutheran, that would also bother some people.
But guess what? This passage is way bigger than just who should marry who. Let’s see what the word yoked actually means in Biblical terms. It comes from a Greek word which is a compound of two – yes two – other Greek words.
We’ll look first at the direct translation word – followed by the two Greek words that are put together to form the one we read as “yoked”.
Yoked – the compounded Greek word:
2086 ἑτεροζυγέω [heterozugeo /het·er·od·zoog·eh·o/] v. From a compound of 2087 and 2218; TDNT 2:901; TDNTA 301; GK 2282; AV translates as “be unequally yoked together with” once. 1 to come under an unequal or different yoke, to be unequally yoked. 1a to have fellowship with one who is not an equal: 2Cor 6:14, where the apostle is forbidding Christians to have intercourse with idolaters. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
We see where it says to have fellowship with one who is not an equal but then the example from the passage above, where it says forbidding Christians to have intercourse with idolaters. With the implicit command to not have sex outside of marriage, this becomes don’t marry non-Christians. But that’s this one example.
The true meaning of the concept goes far beyond just marriage. We should get that from the definition using the word fellowship. But it seems to often get lost in the discussions about this passage.
So let’s look at the two words, a compound of 2087 and 2218, that are combined to get the one above.
2087 ἀλλοιόω, ἕτερος [heteros /het·er·os/] adj. Of uncertain affinity; TDNT 2:702; TDNTA 265; GK 255 and 2283; 99 occurrences; AV translates as “another” 43 times, “other” 42 times, “other thing” three times, “some” twice, “next day” twice, and translated miscellaneously seven times. 1 the other, another, other. 1a to number. 1a1 to number as opposed to some former person or thing. 1a2 the other of two. 1b to quality. 1b1 another: i.e. one not of the same nature, form, class, kind, different. Additional Information: For synonyms see entry 243, allos.See entry 5806 for comparison of synonyms. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
2218 ζυγός [zugos /dzoo·gos/] n m. From the root of zeugnumi (to join, especially by a “yoke”); TDNT 2:896; TDNTA 301; GK 2433; Six occurrences; AV translates as “yoke” five times, and “pair of balances” once. 1 a yoke. 1a a yoke that is put on draught cattle. 1b metaph., used of any burden or bondage. 1b1 as that of slavery. 1b2 of troublesome laws imposed on one, esp. of the Mosaic law, hence the name is so transferred to the commands of Christ as to contrast them with the commands of the Pharisees which were a veritable ‘yoke’; yet even Christ’s commands must be submitted to, though easier to be kept. 2 a balance, pair of scales. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Wow. That got complicated, didn’t it? The first of the compound words is one not of the same nature, form, class, kind, different. And the second is used of any burden or bondage. Just think about the first two passages – Psalm 1 and the Love passage from Romans. Think of all the issues just from them. And this made it even harder, by adding every other difference that wasn’t already covered in them!
This is all well and good – necessary even – when looking at how we live our lives according to our religious beliefs. But to pass laws based on this? It can’t happen! The problem isn’t that anything in the Bible is wrong or problematic as far as the proper way to live. The problems begin with various translations. And then the various interpretations from those various translations. Issues begin to come up in an exponential relationship to the number of translations and interpretations. When we add in the refusal by some to accept certain portions of their so-called faith choice, it gets even more impossible.
The problem isn’t God. It’s not the Bible. God tells us to love everyone. Even people we don’t like. Even people we disagree with or want to hate. There’s not too much freedom there. Not any freedom, truth be told. Love everyone. No exceptions. Period.
No, the problem is us. And when we bring religion into the mix, rather than becoming more loving, we seem to dig in our heels harder than ever. How an autonomous zone can ever survive under these conditions is impossible to imagine.
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with false teachers – part 1
Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Gal 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Even if we did manage to get something passed in an autonomous zone, or when we do get things passed in our country as a whole, someone’s going to come along and remind us of what Paul wrote above. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.
Something like this is why denominations split. All of a sudden, something that’s been slowly, maybe unnoticeably, changing gets discovered. And now it’s a big deal. People are upset. A denomination can split. But when countries used to be like this – kings and queens would go to war against each other. That’s what can happen when there’s a national religion. You may remember, the king’s church was the reason a lot of early colonists came from Europe to the “new world”. What happens when we start to have these autonomous zones? Will there be too much freedom? So much freedom that we end up with no freedom?
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with false teachers – part 2
2Jn 1:1 The elder,
To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever:
2Jn 1:3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.
2Jn 1:4 It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
2Jn 1:7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11 Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.
2Jn 1:12 I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2Jn 1:13 The children of your chosen sister send their greetings.
OK – this one sounds awful. How can any Christian ever compromise with someone who is the deceiver and the antichrist?
Of course, we only need to read Revelation to see exactly how it happens. In fact, not only compromise but give total allegiance to the deceiver and the antichrist,
The problem is, that’s most likely not what John actually meant. Look at how the King James Version translated the Greek words we just read as the deceiver and the antichrist.
This is a deceiver and an antichrist. The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., 2 Jn 7). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
A deceiver. An antichrist.
As a side note, have you ever thought about the antichrist being here on earth at the right time? Only God the Father knows when that time will be. Not even Jesus. Certainly not Satan! So he always needs to have a potential antichrist waiting to step in, when the time comes. Not that there would ever be a time when Satan won’t have a candidate. Just look around the world. Possible antichrists are all over the place.
Anyway – why the difference? Why does the 1984 NIV say the antichrist, while the KJV says an antichrist? It’s because of a Greek word, a definite article, which occurs 19,806 times in the New Testament. It’s usually not even translated into English. In fact, in the passage Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, the word we read as “who” is also from that same definite article that got translated as “the”. That should raise some questions about whether “the” is the right word to use.
We have one verse. Two sentences in that one verse. Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Is it reasonable that John said there are many deceivers in the first sentence, then said the deceiver and the antichrist in the next? Isn’t it much more reasonable that John said, as the KJV does, that one of those deceivers is a deceiver and an antichrist? It’s only logical that John meant each of those who refused to acknowledge Jesus as coming in the flesh is one of many deceivers, and not that he meant each of them is the one and only deceiver.
John was giving a characterization of a false teacher by calling every false teacher a deceiver and an antichrist. But look how it can come across!
This is a world where too many people get their information from Twitter, Facebook and sound-bites from 24-hour cable news. It doesn’t take too much effort to know the little snippets of info are misleading or outright wrong. But we hear what we want to hear. And we get upset because we heard what we wanted to hear. Compromise? No way! There’s no compromise in politics.
The future doesn’t look too bright for the autonomous zones. Just like it’s not too bright for countries that get into the politics of religion. Too much freedom will probably, yet again, result in not enough freedom.
Not too much freedom: Do not compromise with those in spiritual darkness
Eph 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Eph 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Eph 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Eph 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Eph 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them.
Eph 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Eph 5:15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Yes, that was a rather long passage. It was too hard to figure out what to cut, so I left it all in. As a reminder, the one verse referenced in the table was 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. And its purpose was to tell us not to compromise with those in spiritual darkness.
But again, the catch is that this is about our religious beliefs. And we were never told to make them governmental laws. As I’ve asked before, can you imagine Jesus going to the Romans and trying to get them to pass His commandments as Roman laws? Some would go so far as to say that after the Emperor converted, things were never quite the same. I agree. I think it leads us to try to make our fulfillment of the Great Commission complete by just being politically active. Jesus never told us to do that.
Too many problems come from doing that. It never worked in the past. It’s not working now. And it’s not likely to work in new autonomous zones either. We just can’t seem to hang on to situations where there’s too much freedom. Someone always wants to take it away. And someone else is always there to go along with taking freedom away.
Too much freedom – faith versus politics
Another way of differentiating that, which you’ve probably heard in church, is the difference between being in the world versus being of the world. Here’s a portion of a passage from Paul that includes that thought.
2Co 10:1 By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! 2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
Yes, we live in the world. But we’re not supposed to be of the world. It’s two different things. Yes, we can try to make them into one thing by forcing the rest of the world to be the same as us. However, as I said, we were never told to do that. We were never told to force the entire world to be anything. Instead, we were told to do the Great Commission.
Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Even here, where the Great Commission, in English, says to “make disciples”, that’s not what the Greek said. Jesus never told us to make disciples – as in do something against people’s wills to force them to become disciples. From everything that Jesus taught, we should be able to figure out that forcing someone isn’t what Jesus meant. On top of that, older translations of the Bible do actually have English words that used to give the right intent. They don’t say to make disciples of all nations. Rather, they disciple all nations. See the difference? As in teach. Not force. Teach. Please see Is the Great Commission for Everybody, Somebody, Anybody or Nobody? to look deeper into that.
Laws are about forcing. Teaching is about making something known and letting people decide, to have a choice. Please check out Hope, Desperation, and Hope for more on that thought. It’s about a place where there was freedom. Too much freedom? Then they lost that freedom. And yet, maybe some hope at the end?
Let’s face it, countries where Christianity is “the law” generally do end up compromising on their beliefs. And it’s not peaceful It’s the will of the strongest that wins out. Well, the second strongest is actually what happens. God, the strongest, lets us try to work out of it until the end, when Jesus returns. Maybe we should take His lead and do the same? Be in the world, but not of the world? Disciple people, not make disciples of literal nations?
Too much freedom – the other side of the coin
Hopefully, you see by now the dangers of having religion be the law of the government. Having said that, I’m guessing most of you won’t. It’s too ingrained in us. We fight too much to have things be that way. We don’t realize that we could be so much better Christians if we’d focus on our faith and the Great Commission to disciple people.
But let’s turn this around. We looked at things from the point of view of a Christian. Now, let’s look at that other point of view I promised at the beginning.
Muslims are understandably not happy about living in a place where Christianity is the law of the country. Especially when Islam is the law of the land in many countries. It’s even the law of many autonomous zones in Europe. Places where the traditional police don’t go. Places where Sharia Law, with its harsh penalties, is the law of the zone.
What if Sharia law becomes the law of one of the autonomous zones in this country? Will we consider that too much freedom?
What if Sharia law becomes the law of the land in the entire U.S.? Is that too much freedom?
You think that’s not possible. I tell you, it is. Maybe it’ll be Islam, maybe something else, but the Christian Bible tells us there will be a future one-world religion. And it won’t be Christianity! At least not the way Jesus taught it. It may or may not go by that name – but it won’t follow the teachings of Jesus.
Ultimately, what we start, no matter the original intentions, can always be corrupted. The unintended consequences always come back to bite us. And we never seem to see them coming. It’s not until it’s too late that the government starts looking for someone to blame. Anyone who’s not part of the current governing party is fair game. But it’s too late. The damage is done.
What used to be called too much freedom all of a sudden becomes no freedom at all!
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