[From the archives: something to remember in this season of taking sides.]
As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.
The word “liberal” had a particular meaning in Washington’s day, different from what it means in American political discussions about liberals and conservatives. Samuel Johnson defined it’s opposite “illiberal” in his 1755 dictionary as “not noble … not generous.” So to be liberal meant to be generous and noble.
As for “civil government”, Washington spoke of the protections that come from a government that serves its citizens. The rights of each person were not to be withheld capriciously or arbitrarily as happens in dictatorships and tyrannies, but to be shared and enjoyed by all liberally under equal protection of the laws.
The Bible’s Liberality
Generosity and nobility are Biblical virtues as well. After all, the Bereans are commended for being noble in their dedication to studying God’s word (Acts 17) and generosity is to be a lifestyle for Jesus’ people. (1 Timothy 6:18.)
If you want to show non-Christians that you belong to Jesus, this is the way to do it, nobly and generously. After all, this is how God brought us to himself even while we were acting in complete opposition to him.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7.)
If God can show you such generous mercy and grace, then do you have reason to show anything less to those around you who do not yet know God? As Jesus said:
Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8.)
Be liberal in your generosity and nobility toward others.