21 August 2010

Fitting it together: Faith, Freedom and Failure

Every family has its "inside" jokes. We quote a foreign-born convenience store manager who told my husband in disgust, "They do not know the meaning of freedom!" We have a mental image of my husband whipping out his pocket dictionary to look its meaning up. Of course, we only remember it because there is an element of truth in the statement.
Chesterton said once that people fear not the limitations that Christianity would bring so much as the responsibilities. I would guess they fear both. The a-relgious and the anti-religious crowds both tend to create their own limitations because man is pre-disposed to please someone. If he has no god, he drifts towards pleasing a crowd, a habit (usually a vice), or fixing on a superstition, and so on.
But, for a Christian, freedom is pretty carefully outlined in the scriptures. In fact, Luther has been quoted as saying love God, love your neighbor and then do as you please. Sounds easy, doesn't it? But, if you understand the scriptures (as Luther did), you realize he is talking about adult-sized living.
Contrary to popular belief, Christian freedom is not flopping around, being groovy. And, contrary to American thought, freedom is not a virtue.
Freedom itself has no content, it is inert, and it can be amorphous. But, when a conscience is informed and guided by the love of God, it does good to others. It is then we can see freedom exhibited as God would have it expressed—and at its highest form.
For the Christian, faith is the frame, life is the picture we paint within it. God has given each of us a mission: to paint the best picture for our worldwide—and our heavenly—audience. But we must remember that no masterpiece was ever finished without some errors. And this is how we can understand the preciousness of liberty in Christ—we have the liberty to fail in our efforts.


Chained By Love

Few people have read Martin Luther's treatises (more on Luther below). Luther was a proflic writer. This excerpt is from Fortress Press fortresspress.com from Luther's book "On Christian Liberty."
"…from faith... flows love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, or gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most freely and most willingly spends himself and all that he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward. As his Father does, distributing all things to all men…[Matthew 5:45], so also the [child]…
…if we [therefore] recognize the precious things given to us, our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit with the love which makes us free…servants of our neighbours, yet lords of all.
Our faith in Christ does not free us from works but from false opinions concerning works, from the foolish presumption that justification is acquired by works.
Faith redeems, corrects and preserves our consciences so that we know that righteousness does not consist [of] works, although works can not nor ought not to be wanting… "


Who was Martin Luther and what did he do?
Martin Luther (Nov 10, 1483 - Feb 18, 1546) was a German theologian, an Augustinian monk, and an ecclesiastical reformer whose teachings inspired the Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines and culture of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. Luther's call to the Church to return to the teachings of the Bible led to the formation of new traditions within Christianity and to the Counter-Reformation, the Roman Catholic reaction to these movements.
Luther's contributions to Western civilization went beyond the life of the Christian Church. Luther's translations of the Bible helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther's hymns inspired the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage on June 13, 1525, to Katharina von Bora began a movement of clerical marriage within many Christian traditions.
[Citation from: http://www.theopedia.com/Martin_Luther 24 Aug 2010]