On the Freedom of a Christian
I have often heard people say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Often, these are people I hang around with and with whom I share common spiritual sentiments. When questioned, these SBNR folk (spiritual but not religious) usually say something about the restriction of spiritual freedom. The word, “dogma” is often used. I am sympathetic with the desire for spiritual freedom. But, I find the Gospel to nurture spiritual freedom rather than repress it. I grieve that my friends heard a repressive Gospel somewhere. The reason a church might use fear to manipulate people lies at the heart of why the Gospel is liberating. The Gospel is liberating because it frees us from ourselves. Our will is captive to sin, but faith in Jesus Christ provides the way to freedom. Martin Luther captured these contrasting ideas in his two treatises, “The Bondage of the Will,” and “On the Freedom of a Christian.” Let me use the recent “Twilight” scandal for instance. Twilight star, Kristen Stewart, had an affair on her boyfriend, co-star Rob Pattinson, which will likely break up the relationship though she has expressed her regret and apology. Fans are upset. “How could she do such a thing?” they ask. Fans adore the couple and painfully expressed their sadness and anger over her fling. We crave the chaste, monogamous, committed relationship formerly portrayed by the couple because we are created with this expectation. But, because our will is in bondage to sin, it can’t be counted on to follow through with what’s best for us –unless we hand it over to our creator and move forward in life with a partnership with God. Within this partnership, the “restrictions” on our freedom take on the characteristic of being helpful, rather than harmful. In this light, the “dogma” of religion, in this case, the dogma of mutual, chaste, committed relationships. Sad to say, this dogma is so necessary that Kristen and Rob will probably not be able to put their relationship back together, but forgiveness is available from God, if not from Rob, and Kristen will hopefully move forward with a new understanding of the sanctity of marriage. This is the “good news” of Jesus Christ.