Liberty and Obedience

William Penn once wrote, “Liberty without obedience is confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery.” I have been thinking about that quote a little bit more lately. It seems to be incredibly applicable to the Christian life. He wrote it after going through a difficult period of setting up a colony in Pennsylvania that was meant to be a haven for various groups who thought differently form the church. What resulted was an ugly situation of persecution by the groups form each other. They had experienced freedom, and chose to abuse that freedom and power.

I often wonder just how much of history we repeat at times. Israel had a tendency to repeat its mistakes, and this quote actually summarizes their problems very well. They were given freedom from Egypt, and called to obedience by God. They wanted to keep the freedom, but would repeatedly ignore the obedience part. It would often lead to loss of life, land, and eventually liberty.

People often look at Christianity as a religion defined by what we are not supposed to do. It is looked at as constraining to living a full life. Christians seem to be missing out on all the world has to offer. I can understand the confusion. There are even many Christian who act as though their religion is just a bunch of rules. It can get confusing.

What is freedom? That is the real question to ask. Is true freedom the ability to do whatever you want, or is it the opportunity to live a truly better life. We mix up the two. We think the best life is being able to do whatever we want. I think back to some of those sitcoms where the parents choose to teach their young child a lesson in responsibility. They let the child do whatever they want for a few days, and the result is inevitably disastrous for the child.

Sin keeps us from living the best life possible. It prevents us from living a life that has a relationship with God as the foundation. It destroys relationships, and creates chaos around every corner. God created an opportunity to live in liberty from sin, but it is not a forced kind. We need to make that choice. We need to choose the act of obedience. Take the choice away and we do not have any type of real liberty.

This is where the confusion really comes in. Making this choice does not open up the door for complete and total freedom in everything. We have chosen to serve a new master who has now provided the best life possible, but that choice requires obedience. Before this choice we are enslaved to sin. The liberty this choice provides is freedom from that previous master, and the promise of a full life that is actually worth living

complete freedom that lacks any responsibility and control can be devastating. The boundaries exist for a reason. They are not the defining attributes to what Christianity is, but they are the markers along the road that keep us on the correct path to our destination. They put us into focus on what we are really about. Caring for the poor, meeting the needs of those around us, spreading compassion and love to those in need, speaking boldly for truth, defending the weak, spreading the Gospel, and proclaiming to the world what god has done.

Why I Love Church History

Last week I sat with my father to conduct an interview for one of my current courses. If you are new to reading this blog then you are likely unaware of my background. I am currently working on my Master of Divinity in Church History. The course I am working on is covering American Christianity. The project I am working on requires me to write the history of a local church. Naturally I chose my father’s church. This post is about that experience, and why I enjoy and appreciate the importance of studying church history.

There is a good deal I already knew about my dad’s church. I grew up in it, and saw more than most did. I saw the ups and downs. I witnessed the joys and the stresses for my dad. The moments of the church would have a profound effect on me, because it would simply have a significant effect on my family as a whole. Listening to that churches story was like listening to a part of my own story.

That is what is so fascinating to me about church history. I am learning about my own heritage. Sometimes that history is from hundreds of years ago, and sometimes it is from just decades ago, but the impact remains the same. I come from a rich heritage in my family, and in the ancestors of my faith.

We don’t think about that very often. We rarely take the time to stop and think of the battles our spiritual ancestors have had to fight. We fail to take the time to thank God for giving His ever guiding presence throughout history. It’s rather odd. Perhaps we mistakenly assume deep down that God’s interaction with history essentially ended when the book of Acts finishes. Perhaps we act as thought we are now left on our own to our own devices, but that is just not the case. God is still active in that history, and we now live as part of that history.

As I interviewed my father I found myself looking at him a little differently. I noticed the wrinkles of age more than I used to. I noticed his body being a bit more weathered down by the passing of time, but the fire and intelligence in his eyes burning as bright as ever. His worn hands telling silent stories of the years of service provided. The liens across his face showing battles and victories on a spiritual plain that is nearly impossible to notice without the most intentional of commitments.

I look at my father, and I see such a significant part of my history. A good deal of who I am is due to this man, and the church environment he helped cultivate. I owe a great deal to him, and I find myself looking to him with immense admiration. Seeing his humble spirit in letting God work through him. I found myself realizing that I don’t show my appreciation and gratitude for that enough. This spiritual tapestry is woven into my family tree. They often seem intertwined, and that is what makes it all so special for me.

It may seem insignificant, or even random, but I look at the hundreds of years of history that make me who I am with immense joy. I see God’s hand in it all, and it reminds me that He is still active in those moments. I see the hardships that my heritage has face, and realize that my struggles are no kind of surprise for God.

This is why my passion for church history is so big. It is my history. It tells my story, and teaches me the part I get to play in the churches story as well. I encourage you to spend some time learning your history. Read about the history of your faith that extends thousands of years, but also learn about your spiritual history in the recent past. Learn about the heritage of your family faith whether it be biological, or simply in your local church.