Christians don’t understand liberty…at all. Out of one side of their mouth, they speak of freedom in Christ, and, out the other, they tell you what they need to do and what you must avoid. In other words, like the Pharisees of old, they place a heavy bondage on the adherents to their faith. They even expect the greater society to conform to their values.
They tell us that we need to be faithful church members and support all of the programs, get “plugged into a small group,” take classes, give sacraficially of our finances to support the church organization, and heed the instruction of the church leaders. That sounds more like a cult, than a liberty. They tell us what we should be doing and shouldn’t be doing, subtly (or not so subtly) associating shame with the undesirable behavior and pride with the desired behavior.
Of course, it isn’t always wrong to conform to external expectations, but often, it is. Doing so, keeps us scrambling to be people pleasers, while never defining our own true, personal values, and identifying our life’s purpose and passion.
Whole industries are developed around telling people what to do. A lot of it is just cleverly packaged common sense. Most of it, we already knew. Some of it is flat out wrong.
Do we really need classes and books to tell us what is right and wrong, or do we need to make good decisions based on our personal values? Is living in the way of Jesus facilitated by more learning, or by relationships that provide support as we wend our way through life, and the gradual maturity that comes from seeing the results of good and bad decisions?
Liberty is fun; and dangerous! The fun part of liberty is finding who we are, what we really believe, and how we are going to live. The other fun part is finding out who God is, because he shows up in terribly unlikely places. He can be found in the hearts of the irreligious and profane, the world of the arts, music, theater, and movies, in a simple act of service and a gazillion other places.
However, just because we are free to make our own decisions, doesn’t mean we will make good ones. Often, we will. Sometimes, we won’t. Liberty can lead to freedom, or bondage.
It’s that latter part that institutional Christians worry about so much. That’s why they create their own bondage, to try to counteract it. But we should never outsource what is our personal responsibility in order to follow someone else’s dictates. Our life is our life, not anyone else’s, and we, not someone else, not the institutional church, are responsible for it.
So, what if liberty leads to failure or bondage? Sometimes it will. When that happens, we need to remember who we are in the eyes of God because of his grace and Christ’s redemption, then confess, rejoice in his love, and head the right direction again.
Liberty looks like rebellion to people who love the comfort of social institutions, like the church, because we refuse to outsource our personal responsibility. It can look like stubbornness as we refuse to let someone have undue influence on our life. It can look like indulgence to someone who operates on a hand-me-down external code of behavior.
Historically, none of the systems that undermine personal liberty lead to good place. So, why not live like we are free in Christ, not irresponsible, but free; because, we are.
This post is part of a synchroblog on the subject of Liberty. Here are the
- Jerry Wirtley – Liberty …
- Bobbi Ann Allen – My Allegiance Has Changed
- Justin Steckbauer – The Topic Of Liberty
- MinnowSpeaks – The Talk
- Jeremy Myers – Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death?
- Carol Kuniholm – Liberty and Constraint
- K.W. Leslie – Why I Don’t Want Go To Church: No Freedom
- Jesus Without Baggage – Where The Spirit of The Lord Is, There Is Liberty
- James Carter – The Law of Liberty
- Mallory Pickering – Don’t Give Up
- Leah Chang – Free To Be
- Liz Dyer – Fighting For Freedom & Equality