Freedom is Where We Start

I have been following The Hidalgo Grain Company‘s blog for a while now and, while I’m not sure of its current operation, it has long been an outspoken critic of the extreme Christian fundamentalist movement.

In a recent post entitled “Radical Truth,” the topic of Obedience is discussed and the setting is the centres of Independent Baptist fundamentalism which have this philosophy:

In order to be holy, a good witness and a “show window” for God, emphasis is placed on behavior. This highlighting of the behavioral aspects of conservative Christianity is reinforced in private Christian schools, home schooling literature and in institutions of higher learning. To many children and young adults, Christianity becomes a way to behave, a way to live, a lifestyle – clean, healthy, controlled, ordered, traditional – and we are all told that all things being equal, a Christian should excel above all others.. . .

. . . The truth is more radical. Happiness is not found “on the road to duty” or modifying our behavior or the behavior of others. Freedom is not found through obedience or happily keeping the rules. Freedom isn’t “found” at all – it is given.

Freedom is where we start.

It is The Love that gives you freedom, freedom leads to conviction, conviction to confession, confession to total forgiveness and total forgiveness to worship. When Christ said “my burden is light”, He meant it. We aren’t trading one set of shackles for another. When He said “you are free”, there was no legal disclaimer in small type stating that “free” doesn’t really mean “free”, and that there are a number of ifs, ands or buts.

Will embracing the gift of freedom make your life perfect? No. In spite of what you read on your friend’s Facebook page, there is no “perfect life.” Freedom entails risk. Risk of offense. Risk of failure. The difference is that we allow ourselves to fail. Failure is built-into the freedom we embrace. Fortunately, the forgiveness is total. (Read the full p0st here. The comments are worth a look too.)

The Greenhouse

I tuned in this morning to the Monday evening session of Bob Jones University‘s annual Bible Conference. I heard a beautiful new hymn being sung (His Robes for Mine), although, personally, I have questions about some of the phrases used. The singing of a crowd of 7,000 was awesome on And Can It Be. The brass choir was brilliant. Then there was the preacher, Dr Craig Scott from an Independent Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado, who spoke from Judges chapter 2 about the verse:  “There arose a generation who knew not God.”

While I listened at my computer and accomplished the duties of my own work on this side of the globe, my mind wandered to 25 years ago when I was sitting in those same seats. What struck me with a profound intensity was this one realisation: things haven’t changed. Yes, there was a new hymn, and that was refreshing (Some chords were even used in that hymn that were not permitted to be used in sacred music during the time when I attended BJU–Amazing!). But the overall tone, style, and substance was exactly the same as I recall.

The speaker preached about the importance of teaching  children to submit to authority–yours and God’s, and the importance of bringing them up in an environment that was sheltered and separate from the [evil] world. They needed to be brought up to know God and serve him alone. The risk of not doing so was to have children who would leave home at 16 and fall into sin, do drugs, drink and waste their life in sin.

I know in the context of what was being said, the preacher was emphasising what a great place Bob Jones was for these students to be in, where they could learn and grow untainted by the outside world, and become the next generation of God-fearing, Bible-preaching, soldiers of Christ.

I also know that, having been brought up in the Christian greenhouse ourselves, Vicki and I decided early on that we would teach our children the Bible and encourage them to follow Jesus in their own lives (and, potentially, in their own way). This was and still is important to us. We sheltered them only until we could see they could stand on their own and make good choices for themselves. We didn’t shield them from the consequences of those choices, because this is how they learned to make better choices.

I am proud of the way my kids today know right from wrong, are able to make decisions that are founded on a well-rounded understanding. I am glad that they know what the world offers and have learned to see through the glamour and glitz of its culture. I am thrilled when they personally voice their own opinions on issues, events, and what they see around them because this means they are not in a cocoon, hearing (and heeding) only our voice.  I still encourage them to follow Jesus and hope (and pray) they will do so throughout their lives.

I believe they could not be who they are today if we had kept them in a bubble, sealed in from all that has the possibility of corrupting them.

This is because I believe God is stronger.

Much as I would have many times liked to take the reigns and say an absolute, authoritarian, Bible-based “No” to my children, I have withheld my need to control. Instead, I entrust them into the care and guidance of an all-powerful, wise and loving God. My judgment is not always that great, but God’s is perfect. My motives may sometimes be for reputation or what others may think, but God’s are pure love.

I thank my alma mater for all I am today. Honestly, I couldn’t be where or who I am without the four years of input from BJU. The time in the greenhouse kept me from growing in many ways, but helped me blossom in others. I did have a time of rebellion when I finally escaped from the greenhouse, but God never left me or gave up on me.

Today, I don’t agree with their seperatist position or their fundamentalist view of Scripture and all that entails. But I do agree wholeheartedly that it is important to have a foundation for my life that is beyond myself, and for that reason my desire for myself and my family is for a life-journey with God as closest companion and knowing God the greatest goal of all.

How that happens? I’ll do my best to be there, give advice and guidance. I’ll pray for my kids. But in the end it is between them and God. I’m leaving it in God’s more-than-able hands.