A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.
The recent dramatic events in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world at various times beg the question: What is at the core of freedom? The well known story of the Exodus deals with just this issue.
Here, Moses is repeatedly given the same message to take to Pharaoh, exemplified in Exodus 8:1 which reads: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
My modern retelling of this would go something like this: “I am commanding you Moses, to go to the Head of State of Egypt, and tell him that THE Ultimate Authority says you must let HIS people go (as in they are not your slaves, they are mine), and they must be set free so that they can worship me.
Freedom therefore is not the mere removal of external constraints and the emancipation from forced labour; true freedom comes when we have the liberty to come under God’s rule in everything, for the purpose of living all of life under God.
The Apostle Paul therefore writes in writes 2 Cor 3:17 (TPT): Now, the “Lord” I’m referring to is the Holy Spirit, and wherever he is Lord, there is freedom.
We could therefore say that where He is Lord over the State, the family, the church and our hearts, there you will find freedom.
Slavery and tyranny in Exodus came where Pharaoh began not only to physically enslave the people, but more importantly to dictate and override God’s Word (His authority) and the people’s conscience.
In Exo 5:1-2 God’s authority is undermined: Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’ “2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
Then in Exo 1:15-17 he goes against the conscience of the people: 15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.
Essentially therefore, bondage and tyranny come when institutions such as the state, church and even the family begin to override God’s word and the conscience of people.
How does this relate to freedom in South Africa? Very pertinently, and here are a few examples:
1. The CRL, a government commission, is attempting to put into law a legal requirement that effectively directs that pastors must have a licence from the state in order to preach and lead a congregation.
2. The High Court has recently ruled that the defence of reasonable chastisement by parents towards their children is no longer valid. Therefore, as things stand it is now legally unjustifiable to spank your child.
3. The Department of Higher Education has proposed a Basic Laws Amendment Bill (BELA) that will give much less authority to functioning SGBs and effectively prevent homeschoolers from writing any other examinations (and therefore studying any other curriculum) other than matric and state education.
You may say: None of these affect me, or that you think that the government should prevent so-called pastors from manipulating people, that spanking children promotes violence, and what is wrong with the exclusive state education anyway for those who cannot afford private schools?
For the record, the Bible does show that the church must obey God and preach even when banned by
governing authorities (Acts 5:29). It does say that reasonable chastisement is part of God’s life-saving
instruction to parents on disciplining children (Pro 23:13-14). Lastly, the Bible gives the responsibility for
the training and educating of children to parents, not to the state (Prov 22:6).
But even if you disagree with me and the directives from the Scriptures, there is something bigger that is at stake here.
Let me take you to the very words of Justice Keightley, who in the landmark “smacking” case of YG v State declared: “This is a case where I am satisfied that it is permissible to require religious parents who believe in corporal punishment to be expected to obey the secular laws.”
Read that again, slowly. If that doesn’t help, my rephrasing may help. Here goes: “I have the conviction that we can override the religious beliefs of parents and get them to obey laws that contradict their beliefs, based on the assumption that our interpretation of secular law is the ultimate authority, not the God of the Bible. Therefore, we can tell you parents how to raise your kids and you must obey.” Can you see the wider
Now compare this to Martin Luther’s famous statement as he opposed the error and ultimate claims of the church of his day: “Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against the conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me!”
What a helpful picture of what freedom should be like: our lives submitted to the Scriptures, our conscience following God’s Word alone as the ultimate authority, and any departure from this being unsafe and dangerous. Unfortunately, it is towards this dangerous and unsafe territory that the above mentioned attempts by the state are taking us.
How then can we live in freedom? Of primary importance must be our devotion to live by God’s Word alone.
As Horace Greeley declared: “It is impossible to enslave, mentally or socially, a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom.”
Secondly, we ought to pray for our nation and leaders, and vote for politicians and parties that will promote and not destroy freedom.
This assumes that we understand their worldview and agenda, and if we don’t know, we must go beyond rhetoric to their manifesto and party policy.
Thirdly, we must stand up and honourably speak truth to power. This can be done by presenting written submissions to proposed legislation such as the BELA Bill.
Importantly, we can support Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA). This organiSation made up of respected church leaders is doing a tremendous work in honourably speaking up for religious freedom in state institutions and making Christians aware of the developments in this regard.
One can donate to FORSA, sign up for their newsletter found at www.forsa.org.za, or stay connected via social media.
In a country such as ours blessed by God with the freedoms we have, we dare not be complacent in this hour. Rather, let us look at the bigger picture, and do we all we can to see current and future generations flourishing in the very essence of freedom: the freedom to worship God in all areas of life.