July 3rd 2009

Independence Day

“So, since we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom.”
Romans 6:15-16 (MSG)

Tomorrow, July 4, Americans celebrate their ‘Independence Day’.

I am American by birth (I came here in 1969 and have had dual citizenship for many years), and my British husband used to delight in teasing me that it was really “Rebellion Day”! Freedom and Independence have long been ideals fought for in wars and idealised in literature. As Christians, these words take on a different meaning-freedom from sin and dependence on God. We become slaves to Christ and have no wish to live our lives in independence from His will.

There is a fine line between our freedom and the infringement of others’ freedom. Where does one draw the line between one’s freedom to smoke for example, and another’s freedom to live in an unpolluted area; the freedom of one to consume alcohol, and respect for another’s beliefs about drinking; the freedom of one person to demonstrate against animal testing, versus another’s freedom to conduct experiments that will benefit mankind?

Paul considered this question and decided that “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, KJV). What was that? Every man seek another’s wealth?!! Well, of all things…..! Yes, and he goes on to say in verses 29-32, “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” Wow, that’s a tall order-give none offence! The Contemporary English Version renders verses 23-24 as, “Some of you say, ‘We can do whatever we want to!’ But I tell you that not everything may be good or helpful. We should think about others and not about ourselves.” This is the Christian ideal.

Even back in bible times they were taking one another to court over various issues. In 1 Corinthians 6:7 (KJV), Paul’s response to this was, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” Such a thought would never enter modern day heads-to put up with injustice. Too much like ‘turning the other cheek’ maybe?! And then he concludes in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.” And there you have it-exercising inappropriate freedom can lead to slavery.

We celebrate our freedom and independence, but let’s make sure that this does not lead to disregard for other’s needs and freedoms.

Thank you so much for the freedoms that we enjoy in this land, Father in Heaven. Help us to remember our example, Jesus Christ, who suffered the greatest injustice for our sakes; and when appropriate, bear wrongs for the sake of peace and those who would benefit.

Study by Nancy Silcox