Greater Freedom Demands Greater Self-Discipline: I was driving down Morgantown Road this morning when a sad incident reminded me of this truth. A man was walking his Lab on the left-side of the road coming towards me, and a girl was walking with her Pit Bull on the right hand side of the road. The Lab was wearing a leash, the Pit Bull was not. When the Pit Bull spotted the Lab, it immediately darted into the road to get to it, and was struck by one of the cars in my lane. The girl, horrified, ran into the road to get it and was nearly struck by the following car. At that point, all of the cars in both lanes came to a stop and turned on their hazard lights while she carried her dog out of the road and ran towards what I'm presuming was her house. One of the drivers called out offering to give her a lift to a vet, but she never turned around or replied.
If a dog is untrained, it has to have an external restraint - either a leash or an invisible fence whenever it is outside. In this case, the lack of one almost got both the dog and its owner killed.
There’s an obvious analogy here with people. Proverbs tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Paul in Ephesians 6:4 emphasized that fathers had a responsibility to their children to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” If we refuse to follow this exhortation, then our children will not have the necessary inner moral restraint that stops them from dashing into danger or sin as easily as that Pit Bull ran into the road, and the consequences will often be equally dire.
Unfortunately, we seem to live in an age that doesn’t believe that moral training is necessary or even desirable and actually counts the neglect of it as a sign of enlightenment. Unfortunately, as the tragedies that will inevitably result from this approach pile up, instead of demanding a return to prior principles of training, people demand that more and more leash laws be passed to restrain the behavior of untrained people. Many cry out against these laws, but unless we are willing to “train up our children in the way they should go” and gift them with changed hearts and the inner moral restraint that goes with them, our only alternative will be to multiply leashes and to make them shorter and shorter as self-discipline continues to dwindle.
Perhaps nobody summarized this truth in the context of the American system of government better than Robert Winthrop (1833-1892), a Massachusetts Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives as well as a descendent of the first governor of Massachusetts, the Puritan John Winthrop, when he declared:
"All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State."