Lost in the furor over hell (primarily) and heaven (secondarily) in last year’s Love Wins, by Rob Bell, (and its excellent companion volume) was the underlying thesis about God’s love, and its primary quality evident in man: libertarian free will.  What differentiated man from the angels, and the primary evidence of God’s love for man in His creation of him was the true gift of free will: the permission/ability given to man by God to choose whether or not to accept or reject Him.

As Paul writes:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Throughout the Christian Scriptures, Jesus and his Apostles make clear the fundamental difference between the Law and the Spirit.  Jesus’ primary beef with the Pharisee party was that it had built up a series of regulations, or “hedges”, around the law to prevent anyone from possibly breaking it.  Yet, in doing so, even though they followed the letter of the law, their hearts were not changed.  The Law, itself, was not evil, but it could not change the hearts of men.  Jesus’ teaching on the importance of loving God with all of oneself, and loving their neighbor was one of freedom, not coercion.  Later, Paul noted that what we eat does not make us sinful, but if we abuse our freedom in a way that hurts others, we are sinning – not against a law, but against God’s desire.

And so, we have freedom – liberty.

It is God’s desire that we should love Him, but we can also reject Him.

It is God’s desire that we should care for the poor, but we can insulate ourselves and never even meet them – or, at best, send them a check.

It is God’s desire that we should be generous, but we can keep our blessings for ourselves.

It is God’s desire that we should have joy and contentment in Him, but we can be dissatisfied with what we have and covet.

It is God’s desire that we should be open and honest, but we can be insular, closed and secret.

It is God’s desire that we should care for our earthly bodies, but we can abuse them, to our own detriment.

It is God’s desire that we should love our neighbor, but we can despise them because they are different that we are.

The aim of God’s desire cannot be legislated, because the heart cannot be changed by a law.  Compliance is not acceptance.

America the Free?

For all of the things they got wrong, the founders of America got at least one primary concept right – an underlying principle that eventually eroded the most glaring error of those fathers: the allowance of slavery

That principle was this: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty

The only rights held by men were those given by God, not the government.  The purpose of the government was to protect those rights, not to grant them.  Those rights, given by God, would allow free men to choose whether to do good or to do ill.   The laws of the land only existed to prevent people from depriving other people of those God given rights:

Freedom of expression – whether in support of God or against Him.

Freedom to worship God – or to reject Him.

Freedom to associate with anyone else – or to reject them.

Freedom to own property – whether or not one was a godly steward with it.

Freedom to live and to work – or to be lazy and die.  The freedom to succeed, or to fail.

These freedoms, given by God, as we all should know from our own experience, do not guarantee outcomes.  An evil person may prosper and a good person may suffer.  Even so, it is the freedom, itself, that is a gift and is a reflection of the Spirit of the Lord.

Pharisee Nation

Recently, I’ve read The Tragedy of American Compassion, by Marvin Olasky, which traces the roots of charity in America and its drifting from its original purpose (to help those in poverty to help themselves in escaping those conditions) to its present manifestation (which actually enslaves those it desires to “help”).  Olasky points out that charity is shared, personal, one-to-one suffering with those who are in need, not blind handouts, and that for almost a century and a half, the church managed the care for the poor far more effectively that the government could do, or has done since.

One of the things most clear to me, in reading it, is that many of us have shifted our reliance on God as the source of rights to reliance on the government to secure our rights.  While the Spirit of the Lord only guarantees us freedom, government seeks to guarantee our success and to outlaw failure.  In doing so, it has enslaved many – even in the church – and is doomed to fail, in the name of “compassion”.

We have taken the words of the Psalmist:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

And we have altered them to be:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from Washington, the righter of wrongs.

And we now suffer for it.

The church used to care for the poor and the sick and the needy.  (How many hospitals are named after various Saints?)  Now we don’t need to, because Washington has it taken care of.

The church used to care for widows and orphans, but now the government has it taken care of.

The church used to care for the elderly (and to instruct families to care for their parents and grandparents), but now we’ve got Social Security and Medicare to take care of that for us.

The church used to help those who suffered from failure.  Now we have Uncle Sam to bail us out:

Banks fail, but don’t worry, Washington will bail them out.

Car companies fail because they churn out crap cars with overpriced labor governed by byzantine rules, but don’t worry, Washington will bail them out.

People who bought houses they couldn’t afford with money they didn’t have go bankrupt, and we cry out to Washington to bail them out, as well.

All in the name of “compassion”.

But really, now, let’s get a clue.  There is absolutely no such thing as government “charity” – Charity is something freely given in direct accordance and relationship with the person receiving it.  Taking money from Peter, under coercion, for the sake of “compassion” on Paul is an abomination that sets up the agent of “compassion” as the true god of those who support it.  At that point, God is no longer the guarantor of rights.  He is now absent from the transaction.

And we all suffer for it.

But the church can’t handle the need is a cop out and an utter lack of faith in a God who parted the seas, ruptured the grave, fed the masses and rescued the lost.  It is the voice of despair from the acolytes of the church of man in support of a system that is doomed to failure.  “But the church can’t handle the need” is the cry of the Baal worshiper in the face of Elijah.   It is a story nearly as old as the Bible, like the prophet of God, Balaam, who sold out to His enemies because he thought he was choosing the winning side.

We have become a Pharisee nation, where we feel we must regulate the hearts of men, lest they make a bad decision.

Smoking is bad for you, so we must ban you from smoking.

Trans-fat is bad for you, so we must ban you from eating it.

Wearing a seat belt is good for you, so we must require you to do it.

Health insurance is good for you, so we must require you to buy it.

And on and on.

The only help the church and the people of America need from Washington is for it to become utterly inconsequential in their lives.  Allow the church to become the church and stop trying to regulate away failure and legislate the hears of men.  It won’t work, so stop trying.

I don’t believe that God chose you, and blessed you so that you could heap those blessings up upon yourself. I believe God chose you, and you, and you, and every one of you others because He wants to make a difference in this world. And you know what? what I think is scary about God is He didn’t come up with any ‘Plan B.’ That He left the Church here, and the Church is the only group of people, and the Church is the only institution in the world that can bring about a change. This government cannot do it, so stop depending on the government. Educational systems cannot do it, so stop trusting educational systems. The Church was chosen by God to make a difference. – Rich Mullins

Amen.

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