Every New Year celebrates anniversaries. 800 years ago, in the year 1215, the Magna Carta was signed by King John of England (Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter”). The Magna Carta contained a treaty between King John and the English lords and barons. King John was an abusive ruler: he taxed people without offering them representation, tried them without jury, executed them without trial, and persecuted them by blocking religious liberty. The essence of the Magna Carta is a reminder that no one is above the law of the land, including the king. Since the Magna Carta, scores of other significant documents have followed in its footsteps, including the American Declaration of Independence. In fact, the American founding fathers referenced the rights guaranteed in the Magna Carta when they cited the injustices of the crown toward the American colonialists.
Because of the man’s sinfulness, God ordained government. Without the constraints of government, there would be no way to keep sinful people from exploiting their fellow man. However, government through the ages has more often than not become the chief exploiter rather than the chief protector. This is why the Magna Carta was written. It is the God-ordained responsibility of government to protect and honor the God-given rights of individuals. Government, whether democratic, monarchial, dictatorial, socialistic, or communistic, is made up of people; and the dust that makes up the king is the same dust that makes up the homeless beggar.
So what does equality mean for us today? The charters of history remind us that we are created equal. Regardless of race, nationality, class, or sex, we are all created equal before God. Further, we are designed after God’s image, but we have inherited Adam’s image. Therefore, we all stand equally sinful before God. This is why God sent the world a Savior, for there was no king, people, politician, or judge that could declare us right before God. Because every man and woman bears the dust and sinful spirit of Adam, mankind was set on a hopeless course of destruction with only government to delay the impending chaos.
Therefore, in the time between now and Christ’s kingdom, remember the charters like the Magna Carta. But remember that our worth and value is anchored in God’s design and guaranteed by the coming of the Lord Jesus. Let us thank God for our freedom today, and let us use it in light of the Lord’s coming.