The vote for an independent Scotland appeared to come and go before most knew what was going on in the UK. On one hand, it felt like it really should have been a historic moment. For over three hundred years, a lack of independence seemed like a slight embarrassment or at least minor blemish on the Scottish image, curtailing its bravado. At the same time, it seemed like many lacked the motivation to fully follow the story, perhaps due to the inevitable mass of political and financial entanglements they would be forced to become familiar with.
I must admit, I did pay some attention. Be it historical significance or just my surname, I felt obligated to stay tuned. From one standpoint, this seemed to be just another example of trouble in the fractured European paradise. From another, it seemed to be a possible milestone in the global trend of decentralization.
Decentralization is a current fundamental trend fueled by the connectivity of the Internet. People are connected with one another across the globe. They are connected instantly. The information they exchange comes at a near-zero price. It will eventually unfasten bonds of state throughout the world. If you want proof, look here. Lone Star cowboys have been watching highlanders. Many residents in the state familiar with oil, natural gas and a tad more freedom than other US counterparts have had their eyes fixed on Scots. Still, decentralization does not ensure freedom.
Scotland is no current bulwark of freedom. There is no need to romanticize that area of the globe. It suffers from the same complex that many of its neighbors suffer from. God graced them with the opportunity to play a part in reforming the church and laying the foundation for tremendous prosperity throughout the Western world. Yet, for the most part, they have abandoned God and forsaken the one who provided such blessings. In Scotland’s case, there are real national covenant issues.[i]
At any rate, the night of the vote on the referendum found me doing a bit of romanticizing myself. Everyone knew that by late Thursday night, the cards were stacked against Scottish independence. Yet, I still saw it as a good excuse to pop the top off of a Belhaven Wee Heavy ale and pull up Braveheart on Amazon Prime. Despite some historical inaccuracies (like Scots wearing kilts in the 13th century), this is an epic film. The story of William Wallace is inspiring for most. This particular depiction leaves its watchers with a bit more courage and undoubtedly heightens both their hunger for freedom and their resistance to tyranny.
The curious thing is that most of these same viewers will not stop and ask the question of why or from where tyranny arises in the first place. Yet, it is an important question to ask. Is the history of nations a series of random events with the rise and fall of tyrants resulting from nothing more than an arbitrary basis? Is there a cause-and-effect relationship between national behavior and the degree of oppression experienced by said nation?
Perhaps beginning with a look at the individual dynamic would prove helpful. Bondage results from sin. We are born into this bondage (Ps. 51:5). Our only hope for liberation is Christ.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Yet, even being set free this side of heaven does not fully insulate us from the enslaving effects of our sin. Our sanctification involves a struggle under this yoke. Paul says,
but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Romans 7:23)
As individuals, sin makes us captive. It enslaves us.
This is no different in terms of corporate reality. Nations may appear to rise and fall without explanation. In the common present-orientation of our society, freedom and prosperity may seem to be dispensed at random. But this is not the case. It is never the case. Just as individuals are enslaved through rebellion against God, nations experience liberation or servitude in proportion to the level of submission to him as well. Submission to God through obedience to his commands is the only source of lasting freedom.
“…Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper?…’” (2 Chronicles 24:20)
Cannot. Freedom and prosperity come through Spirit-wrought surrender to Christ. Evidence of this surrender is always conformity to his commands. This is also a corporate reality. We have no issue saying that nations submit to other nations. If this can be the case, then nations as a whole can submit to God. This happens through individuals and representatives of the whole. This can formally take place through a national covenant.
Although William Wallace was no doubt a national hero, men of God are not called to revolution. They are called to evangelism and obedience.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
As men, women and nations are discipled and as they observe God’s commands, they will move from tyranny to liberation. This is what God’s Word promises. The independence of Scotland will surely be put back on the table in time. The question is, by what standard should the independent – or any independent – nation be governed? If true freedom is only found in Christ, then being faithfully bound in a national covenant to the author of freedom is the only possible lasting arrangement for any state. Any other arrangement will simply be an exchange of one form of tyranny for another.