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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

The discussion flowed back and forth in our lounge room. Our son had just maintained to us that he does not fear God. What he meant, he hastily assured us, was that while he does stand in awe of God, he does not ‘fear’ God in the way we usually understand this word. God for him is a loving, forgiving Father and a close Friend whom he can approach at any time.

Also present in our lounge room was our new son-in-law, who comes from Ghana. And Kofi was determined to have his say too. He and our daughter Tina had just returned from a few weeks in Ghana, so the memory of what they had seen there was fresh in their minds. In Kofi’s hometown, all the houses have bars around them to stop people breaking in. And any showers, toilets etc outside the houses have locks on them – otherwise if you go out there at night, people can hide there and attack you. Yet virtually the whole town closes down on Sundays as most people go to church – and there are plenty of churches to choose from.

So what is going on here? Kofi explained that when his people still had their old gods, everyone could leave their houses unlocked and nothing would disappear. You see, the people were really scared of these gods and the power they had to bring down curses on you and punish you if you did wrong. But once they had their ‘new’ God, things changed. This new God was, and is, different – this new God is loving and kind and forgiving and understanding. So it seems the people aren’t scared to do wrong things because they know if they confess them, they will be forgiven. In their new-found freedom, they have forgotten about the fear of the Lord – and they have also overlooked what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

But I suspect it isn’t only some people in Kofi’s hometown who live this way. How often have I myself had thoughts such as ‘Well, I’ll just go ahead and say that cutting comment or pass on that juicy bit of gossip. God won’t mind!’? Of course it’s wonderful that when we do repent and ask for forgiveness, God freely gives it to us. Yet surely it is right for us to remember who God is and that one day we will all stand before this awesome God and be called upon to give account for our lives?

Recently I read a comment written by Australian man working in the Middle East: In the West we’ve largely forgotten God’s wrath and chosen to focus on His love. We’ve created a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out God, who can only have one emotion at a time – and only the emotion we like. Yet the Bible continually reminds us that God is angry with those who rebel against Him. Hmm …  And I am also reminded of Hebrews 12:28-29:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire”.

So may we all continue to live our lives filled with awe of God – but also with the grace of God.  Let’s ‘fear’ – but not fear. And hopefully one day in heaven we will understand fully how God holds both of these in perfect tension.

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Have you ever had the experience of sensing that the person to whom you are speaking is having trouble working out exactly where you ‘fit’ in the scheme of things, according to how he or she sees the world?  Have you ever seen that slightly confused, glazed expression appear, accompanied by some vague comment that peters out into nothing, as the person disengages from you and retreats to safer ground?

Since embarking on my crazy writing journey, I personally have experienced this many times.  And that’s one of the reasons I love this beautiful poem someone passed onto me recently, written by the fourteenth century Sufi poet Hafiz:

The small man

Builds cages for everyone

He knows,

While the sage,

Who has to duck his head

When the moon is low,

Keeps dropping keys all night long

For the

Beautiful

Rowdy

Prisoners.

Some years back now, a friend wrote me an anguished email, when her way of life and of doing things was questioned by those whose role it should have been to encourage and build her up.  Instead, they inferred how wrong it was of her to dare to be different from them and how strange the choice she had made to ‘step out of the box’ was.  Here’s part of what she wrote:  When people are used to thinking in a certain way, it seems so hard for them to think differently or accept something different, or to think it might have merits, or to think that there just might be some faults in the way things are done in the status quo too!!! They only seem to be able to find fault with the attempts that people make to try and think outside the box.  Is it really so comfortable inside the box that it hurts people so much to consider stepping out of it?  What is it about the box that stops people from thinking how it could be outside of it or makes people try to bring the people outside of the box back into the safety of the box, with its familiar hard walls, corners … limits?   

I won’t attempt to answer my friend’s questions here, but like her, I don’t want to be confined to the same old box all my life.  And I don’t want to make people fit into a box that isn’t the right ‘shape’ for them either or cause them to feel too restricted and uncomfortable.  As a Christian, I believe God has much more than that for each one of us.  I believe God’s heart is to bring freedom for us all through Jesus and then to strengthen us to be all we are called and gifted to be in this life, whatever shape or form that might take.  In Luke 4, we read how Jesus claimed that the Spirit of the Lord had sent him ‘to proclaim freedom for the prisoners’ – and he is still doing that today. 

So let’s all stand tall in God, letting him tell us who we are.  Who knows – we may even have to duck our heads if the moon is low!  Let’s walk in the true freedom God gives – and let’s not forget too to keep on dropping keys for all the beautiful, rowdy prisoners!

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