“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry is well known for these fiery words. He was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1774 and a delegate to the First Continental Congress. He became a champion of freedom for the frontier people. On March 20, 1775, Patrick Henry appeared before the Virginia Provincial Convention, which was deeply divided between those who supported England and those who desired freedom. It was then he closed his speech with this passionate and stirring challenge: “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry served a commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military, helped form the first constitution of Virginia, and was a principal contributor to the amendments to our Constitution known as the Bill of rights. He was also the Commonwealth’s first governor and was reelected four times.
Patrick Henry was a great American patriot. He was a deep believer and a staunch defender of freedom. However, he also was devout in his religious beliefs. Less famous, but no less important are these words:
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians – not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Whether you agree or not, Patrick Henry felt the American cause was a just one. A providential one. And one that exalted Jesus. When he died, Patrick Henry left his estate to his children, with these final words recorded in his will:
He wrote, “I have now given everything I own to my children. There is one more thing I wish I could give them and that is Christ. Because if they have everything I gave them and don’t have Christ, they have nothing.”
It is a powerful word. A stirring word. A stimulating word. People yearn for freedom. We seek financial freedom. Political freedom. Personal freedom. We desire the four freedoms of which President Franklin Roosevelt spoke: Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. And freedom from fear.
But Patrick Henry was right. We can enjoy all the freedom in the world. But if we do not have freedom in Christ, we have nothing.
Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) Jesus came from heaven to earth to offer the world an uncommon freedom. Divine freedom. Spiritual freedom.
When Jesus went to the cross on the darkest Friday in all of history, he died for our freedom. Freedom from sin’s shackles. Freedom from the Devil’s tyranny. Freedom from Temper’s snare.
Jesus frees us from the intoxicating allurement of pleasure, power and prestige. From the slavery of an illicit relationship. From the grasp of greed. From out of control anger. From debilitating guilt. And from secret shame.
Jesus’ vicarious death and victorious resurrection also frees us from the fear and bondage of death. Jesus promised: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. (Jn 11:25-26)
This uncommon freedom offers freedom that procures peace by God’s saving grace. Freedom that produces joy found in faith. Freedom that propagates hope rooted in the resurrection. Eternal hope. Hope that if found only in Christ Jesus.
And so today, on this particulate Friday, as Americans celebrate our country’s freedom, may we also be reminded of another Friday. On Golgotha’s hill. Where the “Hero of Calvary” died for another kind of freedom. And uncommon freedom.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman