Freedom and God’s Ownership:
Serious Implications Church Today
“Nothing brings more pain than too much pleasure;
nothing more bondage than too much liberty.”
America has been called “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Freedom is the main reason our forefathers fought so hard for this country. They fled for freedom from the enslavement of oppressive governments and rulers. This freedom was built on the hope that their new land would give each individual the inalienable right to live and worship as he or she pleased.
At this time in America’s history we have greater freedom than ever before—a freedom that is greater than any country anywhere in the world enjoys. But is the freedom we have today the freedom that our forefathers fought and died for, or has it changed with time? We do not have to look far to find people who are abusing it—demanding freedom for personal rights, freedom for me, myself and I, freedom at the cost of someone else, and more. We hear so many people saying, “I have a right to do this or that…” “Get rid of the baby that is in my womb because I just do not want it! This is my body and I have a right to do what I want with it!” Or, “It is inconvenient at this time.” “I can own what I want, do what I want, be what I want, and no one had better stand in my way.”
Advertisers pump this same idea into our consciousness: “Have it your way;” “You deserve a break today,” and the familiar, persuasive pitch: “You have earned it so go ahead and …” One could come up with many more everyday examples of our abuse of freedom in America, which is always freedom at the expense of others. In actuality, this is not freedom; it is the evolutionary theory of “survival of the fittest.” In the final words of the book of Judges (chapter 21:25) we find God’s indictment against Israel, which describes so well our own sad state: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
The Church in America is no different. It has taken on the attitudes of the American culture regarding freedom, embracing them as its own. We have greater freedom than in any Church in the world, and yet it seems as if we have the lowest level of commitment to follow Christ in a life-changing, life-sustaining way. We have so much freedom that the Church in America is losing its place in the world, as well as its authority and influence in society. Why is this?
This writer believes that it is because of this overemphasis on the cause for personal freedom and the subsequent demand for freedom that has infiltrated every aspect of the American lifestyle. It is hard to find people who serve in the Church from a heart commitment to Jesus Christ. They float from congregation to congregation to see if they can get their needs met. It is a common thing to hear Christians, say, “The Church is not meeting my needs, not teaching my children, not offering enough, not exciting enough…” At other times, we hear the exact opposite: “The Church is asking too much of me, the leadership is just too demanding, prying too much into my life…” Church members blame the leadership if their needs are not being met, and they blame them if they seem to be requiring too much. American freedom and a Church that has bought into it has bred a me, myself, and I membership.
We have pushed leadership down to the point that it lacks the power to lead. We define the leader as the one who can gather the biggest crowd, get the most laughs in the pulpit, write the most books, own the biggest or fastest computer, build the biggest church facility, and so on. When one studies the world and the Church in third world countries, it becomes evident that these churches are made up of loving, sacrificing people who have sold it all to follow Christ. This is rare in free America. Why is this so true? Is there something about freedom that compromises or works against our faith? If so, why is this? Are we not truly free to make our own decisions? Is this not what Christ came to do? Read His words in John 8:32
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Again, John 8:36 says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” We are free, it is true, but all too often we have defined our own freedom as the ability to do what we want, when we want, no matter what the consequences. In 1 Peter 2:15, 16 we read: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.”
What about this freedom that Christ has given us? All across America people want to do their own thing—often at the expense of others. When someone speaks with people about their walk with Christ, they make excuses: “I just do not have time to read my Bible;” “I’m too busy to attend that special prayer meeting or share with my neighbor. Anyway, that’s the pastor’s job.” One pastor recently told me that when a member of his Church died, he called twenty-five member families and found only three who would prepare meals for the bereaved family. It would seem that if the Church asks anything of its members outside of the routine of Sunday morning worship, they feel their free time is being intruded upon. Personal freedom is in question. Is this the freedom that Christ died for?
This is the dilemma and challenge for Church leadership today: to help God’s people, under their watch care, to be aware of God’s expectations, and to guide them in living up to those expectations. It is our goal here to bring into focus those biblical principles that will help us accomplish this mandate.
We must begin with some basic questions and assumptions: God has expectations of all of His creation and with those expectations comes the responsibility of the created to live up to them. And God has certainly not hidden these expectations from us. The Holy Scriptures describe them fully, giving living examples of people who have obeyed and disobeyed these expectations. God gives us His expectations; we have the responsibility to live up to those expectations, and our responses have consequences.