Monday, February 11, 2013

Legalism, Carnaval, Freedom

Navigating our way through the media age is not easy as Christians, as the Church and especially as parents. It has been interesting for me to realize I grew up towards the end of a strongly legalistic era for the church. Christians didn’t go to dances, didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t listen to secular music…. We had a fair sized list of don’ts.

I am happy to have seen that mentality largely die in the Church in the states. Christ himself said he didn’t come to condemn for we already are condemned. He offers us freedom from sin and as the Pharisees created a mountain of law to try and fulfill the law all the legalism the church can invent doesn’t free hearts from sin. Those who love the dark love the dark, if your heart loves sin avoiding certain actions does not make it clean.

At the same time I have seen many Christians lives and marriages destroyed by this freedom in recent years. Melissa and I passed through a difficult season to say the least, neared divorce and abuse of freedom certainly didn’t make it easier.

Now we have moved to Brazil, a country steeped in legalism within the church. People go to church, love God but have no freedom to live for Him do to that weight I remember from growing up. It almost becomes a competition to see who is the best Christian. That is the problem with legalism. Instead of rising up to love the broken partying their lives away during carnaval they run to retreats, almost hiding from the world. The reality is legalism hasn’t cured the heart, people to me seem to be jealous of the world, almost afraid if they don’t have a retreat all the young people will realize how much more fun the world is and leave the church. I understand this is one of the few holidays everyone has off, there is a legitimate side of wanting to do a retreat because everyone is available. the legalism comes in the reaction to the suggestion of going and doing evangelism instead “oh it is evil, it is impossible, Christians can’t go to the parade to the events”.

The light should shine more brightly in the midst of the dark, we should have no fear of evangelizing in the midst of the worst of sin. This doesn’t mean if we have a weakness for sex and drunkenness we go alone to a party in the name of evangelism. Wisdom must reign. However if we believe Jesus has set us free we should believe that hope will cry out to others. If we believe sin is death the people partying should be discovering they are unsatisfied.

At the same time as watching Carnaval I am watching the sickness of celebrating everything evil in both Carnaval and the Grammys. The world does love evil. It is more evident all the time. Celebrities like Rihana and Keysha are so openly demonic, loving evil. We cannot cry freedom and ignore our youth running after their influence.

How do we find balance in the midst of this? I think we must examine what true freedom is. The reality is that sin kills, kills relationships, kills families, kills marriages. Crying freedom and denying ourselves nothing hurts us. It isn’t about God rejecting us if we have shortcomings, I am beyond full of shortcomings. We must love holiness but also love freedom. We must realize Christ didn’t offer us just freedom from but freedom too. Freedom too be what he has created us to be. Ambassadors of restoration with God.

As a church in the states we must hold on to the freedom we have found, to grace, to the rejection of the idea that having a beer means you aren’t a Christian. That dancing with a girlfriend/boyfriend or a spouse isn’t worshiping that person over Christ. That music has to be spiritual or can’t be listened to. This drives people away, the world is more fun than that. If that is what it means to be a church going Christian I will happily be Christian that doesn’t go to church.

At the same time we must realize that loving the world, running so deep into freedom that we never say sin is sin prevents us from true freedom. I can not get drunk, party with my wife, watch increasingly pornographic movies or go to clubs listening to pornographic openly demonic music. Watch people dance provocatively, perhaps join in and expect life. Death will come. Relationship with my wife, my God will be broken, may still go to heaven that is God’s decision, but broken in a way that prevents life. Life is knowing the pleasure of God working in and through you. Life is the pleasure of living each day with a greater purpose, part of a kingdom.

We are adopted sons and daughters of the living God. Princes and princesses in a holy kingdom. We must wake up and reject what needs rejected first and foremost in our own lives and homes. Also though in our churches, not through beating people with the law but through encouraging them to experience freedom. The freedom to truly love our spouses, to truly love others. Lord wake us up, not to go back to death but to go forward. To dream of what a pure clean church can accomplish. Not preoccupied with small meaningless actions but obsessed with loving others. Caring for the poor, restoring marriages, listening to the hurting, praying for each other, taking care of the elderly, cutting their grass….. Living selflessly, without thought of our own needs, walking in the steps of our savior who was satisfied by pleasing the father, that took breaks to be with the father, to know Him resulting in a life spent serving.

Legalism results in a weak inept Christian, an untrustworthy bride that needs watched constantly

Sloppy grace results in a dirty, ugly Christian, a bride who is no different from the world, hopeless.

True freedom results in an active Christian pursuing knowing God, a beautiful bride preparing ourselves for Christ. Working to see others come to him.

Is our faith simply going to church on Sunday or have we been given freedom to change the world?