Thursday, January 11, 2018
Freedom of choice. . .
Freedom has become too cheap and easy. I watched, as I usually do, the Day of Remembrance observance from England -- the wreaths solemnly laid and the extravaganza in the Royal Albert Hall. It was a moving tribute to the many fallen, wounded, and emotionally scarred. We do similar things on Veterans' Day and other days in which we honor those who paid for our liberty with the greatest cost to self and family. Yet then we go back to our new ways of defining that freedom as the license and permission to pursue desire. Surely those who died and were wounded across the days and years of our history paid the cost of liberty for something more noble than the unfettered pursuit of want?
Christianity has suffered the same abuse of the term freedom. We are free not to meet God where He has promised to be but to define Him according to the values of our age and to neuter Him so that the best He can do is to bless us in our self-centered lives and our selfish endeavors. We are free not for noble purpose -- to love as He has loved us -- but for the love of self that comes at the expense of others. We are free to live as victims who refuse to own either our opportunities and what we do with them or our sins and what we did. We are free to pursue what makes us happy because we are sure that this is what God wants more than anything else. We are free to be lurid and perverse with the gifts and blessings God has given, literally to break our toys if we want to because freedom exists as much to license our base and vulgar desires as much to ennoble them with virtue.
We celebrated an anniversary year as Lutherans and in it we learned that Luther's primary concern was that we would be free to be happy, to live the lives we desire, to judge all truth by our reason or our feelings, to excuse and justify sin, to love self first before we find room to love others, to remove the oppressive shackles of morality, religion, pope, and Scripture, and to do so on somebody else's dime. At least that is how it often seemed Luther was portrayed by those who did not want to deal with the more distasteful aspects of His witness about sin and its death, the redemption that must come in blood, and the freedom to live according to the Law and not from it.
For the Christian, freedom is never about the endless number of our choices or the silencing of those who would constrain any or even all of those choices. No, for the Christian freedom is about the choice, forgiven from our sins and reborn in the waters of baptism, to love God above all and with all that we are and all that we have and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not about choosing anything but choosing the right thing. It is not about whether I am happy but how the Lord is making me holy -- a holiness rooted in Christ's righteousness which we learn not only to wear but to become as the Spirit sanctifies us body and soul through the means of grace. In this respect, it is a freedom from choice and learning not only to trust God's good and gracious will but to live it out as the only real object of freedom and the only fruit of the blessed liberty which Christ's death and resurrection affords us. Anything less than this makes a mockery of Christ and trivializes not only sin but His own suffering and death upon the cross.