Opinions on faith and life

Free For All?

2011-05-11

Most people agree that prisoners and slaves are not free. On the other hand, reasonable people understand that even the freest society has to have limits; that is, we are not free to impinge upon the life or property of others. But in this time of encroaching surveillance on the citizens of free countries (e.g. flying camera drones), the question arises as to how much control can be placed upon people before they have crossed the line into slavery or imprisonment. We could also cite a small group of people living in the wilderness to escape a police state; how free are they if they have to be on constant guard and stay in hiding?

In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quoted Isaiah and applied the words to Himself:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
But many preachers, denominations, and authors have robbed this freedom from the Christian community by oppressing the poor with guilt trips about tithing, making long lists of rules for what half the Body of Christ may do, and and exerting the very lording over that scripture forbids (Mt. 20:25-28, 2 Cor. 1:24, 1 Peter 5:3). And instead of good news, the gospel message is often turned into bad news by those who insist that unless sinners are dangled over the fires of hell they cannot be saved, in spite of the example of the apostle Paul with the Greek philosophers (Acts 17:16-32), wherein he only mentioned a final judgment but not what awaits those who are condemned. These same preachers also make it bad news by continually berating their congregations for a laundry list of failures such as daring to question their rulers or not being busy enough at church.

This is freedom?

It’s very much like the people hiding in the wilderness, afraid to step out, unable to live as they please whether due to fear of discovery or police state oppression. Many churchgoers are afraid to say the wrong thing, believe the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, whether the threat of incurring wrath comes from the rulers or the other members. The tactics used to achieve conformity are numerous: peer pressure, guilt, passive-aggressiveness, sometimes even to the point of committing crimes. Even in the most relaxed and pleasant churches, there can be strong coercion from preachers and others to conform far beyond the basics of the gospel. One could expect such things from a club or a business, but not a Body with many parts, all of whom have been set free from mere religion by none other than Jesus.

It’s time for the Christian community to face the glaring contrast between what Jesus said and what the churches became. A truly free believer meets with others when they want to, gives when and how much they choose, prays without ceasing instead of at approved points in a service, wears what they choose and eats what they like in keeping with the scriptural mandate to be considerate of our neighbors, and keeps the good in the Good News they preach. Rather than the chaotic free for all the fear-mongering preachers warn will happen when people stop going to church, the Holy Spirit is free as well to lead and coordinate His people. Jesus said He would be with us even if two or three get together because of Him, and there was no fine print about one of them having to be some kind of cleric.

So if the Son liberates you, you will truly be free. (John 8:36)