By Bill King
Pastor, author and entertainer
We live in “The Land of the Free,” but certainly not at the gas station or grocery store these days! Actually, I don’t think the phrase means things are free, but we are free. For that matter, even our freedom was not free. It has been bought and paid for with the lives of those who fought for it. Even with inflation and soaring prices, which seem to be competing with our rising crime rate, I still love living in the land of liberty.
In the 246 years since our independence was declared, we’ve come a long way. Great strides have been made to make this into a great nation. In some ways, however, we have done more than come a long way. We have gone too far.
When we can’t turn on the evening news or read the daily newspaper without hearing about another mass shooting or some other heinous act, we have a serious national problem. We do have the right to defend ourselves, but taking up arms against innocent people whom we may not even know is not what that right is about.
Exactly what did the Declaration of Independence win for us? Does our liberty come without limits? Are we completely free, without restraint, to do whatever we please? I think not!
Limits serve a purpose
Even liberty has its limits and rightfully so. A land without limits is certainly headed for disaster, perhaps even doom. If everyone who lives in any nation does whatever they please, chaos is bound to follow. Liberty must be balanced with limits. Privileges must be coupled with responsibilities.
Limits serve a great purpose. We have speed limits on our highways to help prevent us from killing ourselves and others in accidents. Speed limits in parts of the West are higher than ours in Alabama because they have fewer people on their highways.
I have vacationed and been part of missions’ teams to Wyoming and South Dakota numerous times. Right above Wyoming, is the great state of Montana. I had always heard that Montana does not have speed limits on their interstate highways. I discovered that they do not have “posted” or set speed limits, but they do, in fact, have limits as to how fast you may drive. If an officer there determines you are driving at a speed that is reckless, unsafe and could cause an accident, guess what? He can pull you over and issue you a ticket.
Art of restraint
Free-range farming has become a popular choice for many farmers. Many consumers want to buy meat or eggs that come from animals or birds that were not confined. In the old West, open range was common before we began putting up fences.
But even with free-range farming there are limits. A farmer in Alabama can’t have his cattle wandering off to Arkansas to graze on someone else’s property. We must practice some amount of restraint while at the same time respecting the rights of others. We are not free to infringe on them simply because we can.
If none of us practice the art of restraint to go with our liberty, eventually none of us will be able to live freely. We will be held captive by a constant state of fear.
I sincerely celebrate our independence, and I encourage each of you to do the same. But please join me in praying for our nation. Let’s pray for our spirituality, morality, integrity and economy. Let’s pray for our rights but for respect the rights of others as well. Please enjoy your freedom this weekend, and have a safe and happy holiday!
EDITOR’S NOTE — Bill King retired in December 2021 as director of missions for Tuskegee Lee Baptist Association. He writes a weekly column and has published several articles and books. He also appears in churches as his humorous alter ego, Brother Billy Bob Bohannon, and is available to serve in interim or pulpit supply/music ministry roles.