Thursday, August 18, 2011

Values of the Church 3: Freedom!

Over the past couple of years, in bits and drabs, I've been looking at some topics related to the church, building toward what was originally intended to be a response to the too-common blanket critiques of megachurches. While my end game has changed a bit, I think the values discussion retains merit. Christians can be a little too good at intra-faith bickering, so I want to continue laying the groundwork for the evaluation part of my argument. To that end, having already looked at love and unity we're going to turn our attention to the value of freedom.

What's that? Freedom? Isn't that too "American" a value? Aren't we still slaves to righteousness? (An odd phrasing to say the least, the unspoken implication of the question being that Christians are not "free" because they are bound by all our moral rules.) Doesn't freedom become license, which then becomes grace abuse?

Good questions, glad I asked them for you. Don't let anyone say this blog is not proactively and imaginatively interactive. I would answer all these questions as "yes." Freedom is an American value - but differs from what I'm addressing in that our culture's view of freedom is not of the same type as what I'm going to talk about. And yes, we're to choose to serve righteousness - but the option is to choose to serve sin, meaning that one way or the other we're bound to something. And yes, yes, a million times yes freedom taken too far can easily become license. So let's tread carefully here.

The type of freedom I'm speaking of is deeper than mere social liberty. Freedom as offered by Christ is based on truth. Deceit holds people in bondage; truth sets free. In essence, Christian freedom is the freedom from sin, which permits us to be who and what God intended for us to be. We have the ability, now, to choose to pursue holiness rather than sin.

So how do we use our freedom in a way that applies to this discussion? Looking to scripture as our guide, we note that Peter instructs us to use our freedom as servants of God. That is, with the heart of a servant: humble, seeking to do what gives God glory instead of looking after our own desires. We shouldn't use our freedom as a "cover-up for evil."

So our freedom, in the context of the church, is to be exercised humbly and for good. And quite frankly, for the good of others above ourselves. Ephesians 5 (among other places) has some things to say about that - use your freedom to submit to one another, to think of others more highly than you do yourself. If the church is a community, we should value the freedom we have within that community to do what is good, to do what is beneficial, to do what is selfless.

Next up, another twist on freedom.


R. Stewart said...

Interesting example. One could also say we are free from worry in general because even if some lunatic does murder me, I have the hope of the resurrection. Or, we can be free from worry in general because we trust God is in control.

An aside: I read an essay from someone who says only Christians are truly free because only Christians can choose whether to sin or to not sin. In essence, even the "good works" of one who does not know God are sinful because they are done from wrong motives.

I'm processing the thought - but would love to hear yours.

ella peterson said...

I get what the essay says, but i would challenge that the only reason why only Christians are free is because true freedom is only found in Christ. Without Christ, you haven't freedom.

R. Stewart said...

I think he'd agree.