Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Freedom is scary, Part 2

In my previous post, I posited the opinion that there is something deep inside human nature that is somewhat afraid of freedom. And this is one of the reasons, unspoken and possibly unconscious, why many people cannot or will not come to grips with the claims of orthodox (small O) Christianity.

Part of this may be that there is an innate lust for power over others, that flows as an undercurrent in most human relationships. In religious circles, this often manifests as legalism and pressure from the group on individuals to conform, to be "good Christians". The idea here is that Christian freedom, is simply freedom from the wages of sin, and nothing more. The law is still in full force - just some specific provisions may have changed.

Alternatively, freedom often gets mistaken for licentiousness, which in its basic form, is essentially enslaving oneself to ones own passions. Christ's death paid for my sins, so now I am free to do what I want, so I will. And in many cases, these two extremes play off each other. The licentious son rebels against the restrictions of the legalistic father, and the legalistic mother recoils against the chaos of her licentious daughter.

However, neither of these extremes reflect the freedom for which Christ died.
For the religious legalist, the idea that Christ's death fulfilled the Laws requirements, while not abrogating the Law, is anathema. The expectation is that therefore the Christian life is still a series of dos and don'ts. Not the same ones, but requirements all the same.
Likewise for the licentious person, Christ's death covers all, so the idea that there should be any guidelines for behavior is also anathema.

So, since Freedom, in the Christian sense, is neither legalism, exchanging one master for another, and it is not anything goes, but has guidelines, what can we conclude?

Paul faced a similar idea when he addressed the Corinthian church on the topic of eating meat addressed to idols. In effect, he said let it be as you think best. He did not add a dietary law, so he did not push a legalistic approach, telling the Corinthians they were not allowed to eat this meat. However neither did he instruct the believers who had no qualms with eating the meat to just go willy nilly eating this meat, regardless of the feelings and perceptions of the other believers.

In other words, Paul taught what I believe is the core of freedom. What Paul offered was the idea, that we could voluntarily abstain from exercising our freedom, out of love and respect for where others were in their understanding of Christ's sacrifice, and his Grace that he offered in that sacrifice. If the others had a legitimate conscience problem with eating meat sacrificed to idols, those that didn't were encouraged to allow the other party the freedom to not have their consciences violated. And at the same time, those that had objections to the practice of eating meat, were encouraged to allow those that had no problem the freedom to do so, without adding conditions.

As a believer in Christ, we are free from the wages of our sins. But I believe there is more, much more, to freedom than a one time pardon. We are also set on the road to freedom as well. We are free from the need and desire to rule over others, whether in a one on one relationship, and in larger groups. We are set free from the need to try to earn our way into heaven by following one set of rules, or a different set. And we are free to fail at any thing, and still be forgiven. Not only forgiven by Christ, but free to forgive one another, as we all wait for the Day when we will be free from the pains of this world, and freed into the joys of the next one.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Freedom is scary, Part I

I just returned from my 4th year to go to Ekaterinburg, Russia, with a team from Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, TX, and once again God showed me something from the Word that never really resonated before, from one of our daily NBC team devotionals.

I was asked to prepare one for our team for the first weekday after wife and I arrived, and in my typical fashion, I didn't prepare for anything for as long as I could avoid it. So that morning I finally started thinking what to speak on, and Galatians Chapter 5 verse 1 popped into my head:

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not
let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

As I got to thinking on this verse, I recalled the scene at the end of the film, Schindler's List, where the Jewish prisoners at Brinnlitz were left alone. The German guards had all fled the day before, with Oskar and Emilie Schindler leaving that night. The next morning, all the freed prisoners were still sitting on the ground when a Russia soldier rode up on horseback, and told them that they had been liberated. Yet everyone stayed seated, and one older man asked " What do we do now?" This has always seemed rather odd to me, since it would stand to reason that the prisoners would have immediately taken advantage of their freedom from inhuman and unthinkable bondage, and ran from the Brinnlitz camp as fast as their feet would carry them, and yet they stayed.
From my university days, I seem to remember similar anecdotes of slaves in the American South that stayed around the plantations, even after the Union army had arrived and taken control of that area of the Confederacy, and word was delivered of the Emancipation.

This idea, that people would prefer to stay and live as if they were still in bondage, even if they have been liberated, seems strange to me. And even more strange, it seems that even when a people have tasted freedom, there is a strong tendency to trade that freedom for slavery once more, in certain circumstances. But the more I thought about it, not only that day, but since last week, it seems more of a default position for human behavior.

On a political level, more and more it seems that many, if not the majority of my countrymen seem fine with exchanging liberty for a sense of security. Or on a financial level, many would rather live as slaves to the credit card companies, or to the mortgage banker, or to their jobs, in order to have a newer shinier car, or another 1000 square feet in the house, or what ever they desire that may not be within their means.

However it is in the spiritual arena that I believe this willingness to trade freedom for bondage is most often seen.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was proclaiming liberty to the captives. From the way He treated those that the society of the day deemed less than worthy, and from His sermons and parables, one of the subtexts of everything He said and done was a message of liberation: not only from the wages of our sin against a holy God, but freedom to love others as we are loved. Freedom to see how God values others, and ourselves, and from the knowledge of that, freedom to live accordingly.

Yet it seems that often people would ask Him " what must I do?" to earn this freedom of eternal life. In other words, what rituals or rules must we follow...To what regimen shall we submit to?
I feel that is a response from our natural self, for we often fail to truly understand what it means to live freely. Or if we do understand, we are afraid of the ramifications of a life of freedom.

I will have more on this in a day or two..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What is a GrumpaMoose?

OK, what is a GrumpaMoose?

I am often grumpy and grouchy, so a GrumpaMoose is what my wife named me. The moose part I do not quite get, but there you go.

I didn't set out in life to be a grouch, and I really don't know where or when I started being one. But as the saying goes, "Life Sucks, but God is Good", I think I fixate too much on the first part and often forget the second part

And hey, if you lived with 4 partly to mostly insane dogs, you would be grumpy too.

Anyway. I am again taking up this blogging thing, after an absence of some months. Some of what I write may make you laugh, or annoy you to the nth degree. Sometimes both. Especially since I will be coming from an Evangelical Christian, and politically semi-cynical worldview, annoyance may likely result. I am who I am, and if this viewpoint is not your cup of tea, oh well.
But I will hope and trust that it will always be enjoyable and perhaps occasionally thought provoking. While I will of course enjoy and ask for your comments, especially if you disagree what I write, please be aware that I am extremely stubborn, and probably unpersuadable.

Stay tuned.....