On Mondays, (or actually Sunday afternoons) most preachers think of what they wish they had said or things they wish they hadn’t. So I’ve decided to start a blog segment called “Monday Morning Quarterback,” where I can go back and say what I forgot to say, didn’t have time to say, or wish I had thought to say.
At our church, we looked at Galatians 5:1-6, 13-14 this week, focusing on freedom in Christ. Everyone has a concept of the necessity of freedom, even and especially those, who would disagree with our personal understanding of freedom. For instance proponents of communism, the absolute opposite of an American understanding of freedom, could still claim freedom as a motivating factor: their system produces a freedom from “class struggle.”
Mask proponents claim they are letting others be free to live, while mask opponents claim that being required to wear them limits their personal right to choose what’s best for them. Those in favor of abortion claim reproductive rights freedom, while those who oppose, claim proponents are literally taking away the freedom of the child’s life inside.
Please don’t think I am making a moral equivalence claim here with masks and abortions, I’m just simply trying to show the role that an understanding of freedom often drives opposing moral stances.
Neitzche, like it or not, has influenced western understanding of personal freedom more than most thinkers. But I do think his categories of how to think of freedom are actually quite Pauline (from the Apostle Paul). In Thus Spake Tharathrustra, he speaks of a freedom FROM and a freedom FOR.
Free from what? What is that to Zarathustra! But your eyes should announce to me brightly: free for what?
These are the very same categories Paul claims are critical for any Christian and church.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Neither circumcision (submitting to OT religious regulations, or any attempt to justify oneself) nor uncircumcision (not submitting to others demands) is the kind of faith that “counts.”
He wants this church to say NO to anyone who would demand that they need to do some activity or ritual to justify themselves. Jesus already did that. But he also doesn’t want them to think freedom is just another word for nothing left to do. Faith that “counts” is displayed by actively loving others from a place of validation, not to earn validation by loving.
Nietzche’s freedom is a freedom from traditional morality and for the individual: freedom is the will to be responsible for ourselves.
Jillian Anderson’s character in The Fall rightly reveals that this understanding of freedom could rightly also be called slavery. When the serial murderer touts Nietzhe-like freedom in his choice to be free to kill whoever and whenever, the detective claims, “You are simply a slave to your desires.”
More Pauline she could not be-at least in philosophy, though not in practice.
The freedom Paul touts is not selfish freedom but freedom from selfishness to serve others. Therefore let’s be thoughtful with our freedom.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another vs. 13
We are free to follow our consciences politically. But our freedom is also for others. Therefore we cannot bind other Christians’ consciences who are diligently seeking to apply the scriptures and light of reason in places where scripture does not specifically address an issue or how to solve such issue. Nor can we call them stupid or sinful. We are not free to be so outwardly politically passionate or expressive when it causes divisions in the church. Does our expression of freedom invite other Christians who think differently about issues into a relationship with us/our church or repel them?
What about personality? We are not slaves to our personalities. Personalities often change little, but that doesn’t mean that we are always free to stay consistent with our personalities in every situation and setting. Sometimes we have to step up and lead, speak, share, or talk, and when we’d rather be shy, quiet, or walk away. Sometimes those of us who like to talk (like me) need to step back, ask questions, listen, and simply shut up.
An extrovert needs to stop looking at who else he/she can talk with, while an introvert may need to look at who can he/she can talk with today or after church.
We may like things a certain way in relationships, situations, worship, fellowship, community groups. But are we free to deviate from such desires and defer to others in love? This is the kind of freedom that can set the church apart from the rest of the world.
Let’s never stop thinking about the implications of our freedom in Christ. Sometimes it is to say, “no” to meeting demands, but it also must be the kind that can say, “yes” to meeting needs. It is a freedom from the obligation of trying to prove-which is for OUR good-and a freedom to love for the good of OTHERS.