The French Revolution erupted like a long-dormant volcano, spewing out recriminations against the monarchy and any with whom the people found fault. The aristocracy's oppression over the years had fueled the frustration of the masses. The resulting firestorm of rebellion ended the lives of many of the ruling class on the guillotine. It left France bogged down in a morass of conflicting ideas about leadership.
Out of this time of revolution and chaos, three words emerged that conveyed some of the deepest yearnings of humanity: Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité! (liberty, equality and brotherhood).
The echoes of these three qualities have never died. They still vibrate along the corridors of modern society, although sometimes in different terms. At times the vibrations are muted as the far-off rumblings of a thunderstorm. Other times, they grumble and growl, shaking the very fiber of society.
The revolution continues today
Today these same three values loosely bind together widely disparate groups of people. Most want freedom of action, equal rights and the commonality of all people.
In Western societies, the rallying points—gay rights, clean air, animal rights, etc.—are as multitudinous as the people involved. Societies struggle to achieve the desires of various groups and often end up trampling on the rights or desires of others. After all, if we are honest, one person's freedom may well lead to another person's oppression.
If one person is granted the right to smoke, it befouls the air of those who don't smoke—and in fact endangers their health. Does one have the right to harm his fellow man in the name of personal freedom?
How can we give preference to one group without discriminating against another?
More and more we hear of backlash groups forming in reaction to what they feel are infringements of their rights. In the Unites States some pro-life advocates have resorted to violence to support their beliefs about abortion; proabortion groups and those supporting gay marriage do end runs around the democratic process by trying to find sympathetic judges willing to overturn laws.
On many issues, groups react by mass demonstrations. Allowed to run its course, the ultimate result would be anarchy.
Trouble in the Western world
Everyone wants liberty, equality and brotherhood, but the reality is that the things we do don't produce those results. Our world continues to get worse and worse.
The apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote about our time: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
What a horrendous condition! Look around you. Is it happening in your society? Be honest. As just one example, how many times have we read of political, business or union leaders being found guilty of malfeasance and lining their own pockets with others' money? It happens every day.
The changes have been so gradual and seemingly reasonable that many are unaware how far down we've come. The X, Y and Z generations have not been around long enough to see any major differences in society. But if you are able to look back over 50 or 60 years, the changes have been astonishing.
Consider the student movements of the 1950s. First the cry was for freedom of speech in the classroom. Students wanted the right to speak to an instructor in a disrespectful manner as if he were one of them. Later it was freedom of dirty speech. Now it's anything goes.
The movie classic Gone With the Wind created quite a stir with Clark Gable's now-famous line, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a d ** n." Young children weren't allowed to attend the movie because of this one line. What a contrast to today's entertainment that is filled with cursing and swearing!
How things have changed—and the changes are accelerating! Even in schools young children are subjected to extremely coarse language not only from classmates but occasionally instructors as well, and sexual harassment is commonplace. Such are the fruits of freedom without responsibility.
The Creator's handbook
Is it wrong to want liberty, equality and brotherhood for all? No, a thousand times over! But how will it come about?
What if you could buy a book that could accurately be titled The Key to a Happy Life? This book promised you the absolute key to having a happy, abundant, joyful life, showing the way to real brotherhood, freedom and equality. How much would it be worth to you?
Would you buy it? Would you read it? Would you practice what it says?
There is such a best-selling book. It is the Bible! Perhaps you're of a mind to dismiss that and stop reading this article now. But I challenge you to put it to the test. The Bible has been called the Creator's handbook or instruction manual for mankind. How about giving it a try? It ranks well above all the self-help books put together.
The Bible gives the ultimate key to having equality with your fellow man. It shows you how to have the greatest freedom ever. It proclaims brotherhood for every single human being on earth. Who can fault those goals?
The atheist will say, "I don't believe in God." The agnostic might comment, "I am not sure there is a God." Have they given the Bible a fair chance? Have you? (Request or download our free booklet Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? for some interesting and intriguing thoughts on the subject.)
Liberty: Its biblical meaning
What does liberty mean to you? For the oppressed people of some dictatorship, it means everything many of us take for granted. But do you realize that regardless of your citizenship, you are (if not a true Christian) subject to the greatest, most evil dictator ever?
There is one who is called "the god of this age" who rules in the affairs of men. The apostle Paul wrote, "If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, emphasis added throughout).
His credentials are also attested to in Ephesians 2:1-2: "You . . . were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." (For further understanding, request or download our free booklet Is There Really a Devil?)
Human nature is subject to sin, which means all men and women are slaves to the evil god of this world, Satan the devil. He is a severe taskmaster. Witness all the heartache from alcoholism, drug abuse, infidelity, gambling, crime, child abuse; and the list goes on. Being sinners, it means we are all subject to the penalty for sin, which is death (Romans 6:23).
Other scriptures say that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). No one escapes. All fall under that condemnation until truly converted. "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16).
Jesus Christ died so that all mankind could be forgiven of sin, have the death penalty removed and receive true freedom (1 Corinthians 15:3). We can be set free and no longer have to be slaves to the god of this world (Romans 6:18; Hebrews 2:14-15).
Equality: Its biblical meaning
In God's master plan, in due time every human being will have an equal opportunity for salvation (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Galatians 3:28). It doesn't matter what nationality or gender, nor does a person's intelligence improve or lessen his or her chances.
God is just and God is fair. But in the ultimate sense, we can be very thankful that we don't receive what we justly deserve. God's merciful gift of salvation is not something we could ever earn, yet He freely and equally gives it to all who repent and start serving Him, whether for a long time or a short time. We can be very thankful that God's equality is guided by His mercy.
Notice Psalm 98:9: "With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity." God's ways and judgments are more than fair for all men of all ages. We all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10). In the long run there is merciful equality in the most important decision—our eternal life.
Brotherhood: Its biblical meaning
Paul records God's wonderful promise to all who will follow Him: "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18).
What a marvelous and priceless promise! Humanly we can't really envision that in its full and majestic meaning, but it is an absolute promise to each of us.
In Jesus' prayer to the Father on the night before His crucifixion, He makes a very special request: "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are" (John 17:11).
When we are born, we become a part of our human father's family. Jesus was asking for us to be given our Heavenly Father's name.
Christ is the Son of God. And those who are truly converted are to be children of God too! Read Romans 8:14-17: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption [or "sonship"] by [which] we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' For the Spirit [itself] bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."
This is talking about supreme brotherhood. All who are willing can become true brothers and sisters of one another and of Jesus Christ. The Father's ultimate desire is that we all become His children and a part of His family.
This is the future God has called you to—liberty, equality and brotherhood forever in the family of God! GN