Saved from Sin or Set Free to Live? 2



Saved from Sin or Set Free to Live? 2

2) Thinking Deeply about Freedom

If you are bold enough to allow someone to be a mentor and a guide it seems to me that a minimum requirement is to take what they say and do seriously. The very word ‘Christian’ implies someone is in the camp of ‘Christ’, and yet most of us take the majority of our theology from Paul. Although, thinking more deeply, maybe Christianity is named rightly since ‘Christ’ is not a name but a title. It means ‘Messiah’ or ‘Saviour’. So maybe in calling ourselves Christians we are sometimes being honest: yes to being Messiahed, but no to the call to follow.

Two more things need to be said before I move on. 1) I am not suggesting that Jesus was not a theologian. Crowds would listen for hours to him debating with the teachers of the law so clearly he did do theology. He was a theologian who preferred to use parables and to teach by example. Stories draw people in. Debates tend to polarise and make people exaggerate the rightness of their defensive position. 2) I am also not suggesting that Paul’s theology is different to Jesus’ teaching. I believe Paul has been misunderstood, and I will develop that thought in the final post.

I love visiting historic houses and quizzing the room guides, seeking stories that illustrate how life was lived in eras long ago. Some of the larger houses occasionally include their own church or chapel somewhere in the grounds of the estate. I recall one private chapel on whose walls were painted the Ten Commandments. Five to the left and five to the right of the altar. Every Sunday all staff were required to attend chapel, the purpose of which was to ensure that there were never any instances of stealing, lying, swearing or immoral behaviour amongst the poorly paid servants.

Religion has been used as a tool of social engineering for generations. It is why I was dropped off at Sunday School by unbelieving parents as a young child, and not long ago I recall an exasperated senior politician dismissing the critique of a churchman with the call to ‘focus on teaching young people right from wrong’.

Owners of the big houses with private chapels often hired their own priests, a fact which makes me angry as I stand and take it all in. I imagine Jesus sharing my anger, since he spent much of his time denouncing the hypocrisy of those who held religious power and influence. Jesus did not seek out sin and denounce it. Instead, he announced that his mission was to bring freedom from oppression for those who were enslaved and were willing to live differently.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day saw sinners as a social problem that needed to be fixed. It was others who needed to change because they defined sin as outward behaviour that fell short of Jewish law. But Jesus saw differently, viewing people as sheep in need of a shepherd. If I focus my attention on managing bad behaviour all I see is… bad behaviour. Jesus sought those whose desire was to live righteously, because these were people who would be able to surpass the apparent righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus demonstrates that it is desire to change that pleases God, and it also fulfils the law along the way. On so many occasions we read of him forgiving freely in order to relieve guilt and disarm the shame that keeps people bound (Luke 7:44-47). He also challenges those who follow him to refrain from judging other people for their tendency to sin and spend their energy showing mercy, forgiving others and pointing the way to freedom.

About the Author

About the Author

Craig Millward

has been a Baptist minister for over 30 years and has extensive experience of the joys and challenges of church leadership.

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