As Americans, our birthright is freedom. It’s part of our culture, our political heritage. But the notion of “freedom” in organizing a society can lead to unexpected results when it is applied to the question of ultimate Truth. Many Christians today seem to feel free to disregard the historic teachings of the Faith, to pick and choose what they wish to believe and to follow the crowd when it comes to issues of behavior and morality. But if our Christian faith is true, if it actually describes reality, then we are really not at liberty to make up our faith as we go along or to choose any course of behavior and imagine that God remains pleased with us. Instead, we must seek out God’s wisdom, seek out God’s will for us, and then submit our will, as best we can, to His divine will. In his letter to the Roman, Paul makes the case that we are all slaves, either to sin or to justice.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul lays out the case quite bluntly, and it is jarring to our sensibilities. The same thought is expressed even more directly by Jesus. In John 8:34, Jesus affirms that “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” We all sin, so… the implications are as direct as they are damning.
There is a solution, of course. It is to remain in God’s word. But Paul identifies the problem in his first letter to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Can most Christians today say that? Or are they more likely to say nothing, feeling odd and out of place for adhering to “traditional” – many would say “bigoted”- views about behavior. Paul makes the case for what we must do in his letter to the Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” And later: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:1-20.
Paul similarly admonished the Colossians: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Col. 2:6-8
The only path to freedom is to remain in His truth and the only way to do that is to “remain in his word.” John 8:31. Jesus’ comments are even more grating:
You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe me. Can any of you charge me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.
The message is quite plain: we must become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching, we must hear the word of God and remain in that word. We do this by reading the Bible and reflecting upon it. In so doing, we move closer to becoming “reconciled with God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinth. 5:17. When we open the pages of the Bible as one ready to receive, we open up our hearts, and our lives, to Jesus and his saving power.
The task is not an easy one. Even when our wills are committed, our flesh remains weak. But as Americans we have a greater task: how to first open ourselves up to receiving God’s truth for what it is – unique truth, the only way– when our culture teaches that relativism and pluralism are “the way.”
Posted by Al Serrato