by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca) Kingston, Ontario May 2007
Few Christians celebrate the vast extent of the freedoms we have been given in the love and wisdom of God. Hindus can’t eat beef. Muslims mustn’t touch pork. But Jesus gave us the freedom to eat anything we choose (Mark 7:15-19). Peter obviously did not get the implications of this, and it took a three-times repeated vision to persuade him to kill and eat "all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air." The explanation was "What God has made clean, you must not call profane (Acts 10:12-15).
So God gives us no food laws. He leaves us to eat whatever we enjoy, but if rules are needed for our health, it is our responsibility to be sensible. We can drink wine as Jesus did, but we can avoid drinking to excess (Ephesians 5:18).
In some countries in the name of God women are still kept covered from head to foot with only their eyes showing. We are free to wear whatever suits us. We can dress as we like for whatever occasion. And if we enjoy walking naked on a beach with the sand in our toes it is not God who disapproves.
Some think God requires prayers five times a day. We do not need to use prayer wheels. We are free to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17) which means we can talk to God any time in any place without adopting a formal posture.
We have an infinite choice of work, and skills and professions. There are no restrictions as to being friends with, or even marrying outside our race.
In New York you can attend the high liturgy and musical perfection of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Or you can join in the exuberance of the Black churches. There are Spanish speaking congregations with the rhythms of South America. And some prefer to study the Bible in a small group around the dining room table. God seems to delight in this variety, and there is no evidence that he blesses one form of service more than others.
In some places conversion to the Christian faith results in a death warrant. But God allows Christians to explore other religions. If some decide to leave our fold, we respect their freedom. Nobody is forced by threats of God’s wrath to believe as we do.
This means that the function of the Christian Church in each city is not to saddle people with rules, but to teach us to live in the freedom which God has given. That may include helping us to see the earthly consequences of certain kinds of behavior, but we have no business calling God in to blame others for wrong choices.
There is no place for nagging disapproval. When we fail the Father is ready to forgive. The Son will help us pick up the pieces, and try again. And the Holy Spirit has all the wisdom we need to choose the best course and the energy to move in the direction of responsible freedom.