Freedom (yeah, right)

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Some friends and I were talking about worship this week. Some of them are in a season where they don’t want to go to church. They experience God more closely in nature than by going through the motions every Sunday. Most of us know that going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a refrigerator makes you a stick of butter. My friends were supportive of one another and cheered them on for taking a hike instead of going to church. But the conversation, which started as leaning away from legalism, soon begins to lean towards “anything goes.”

The anything goes mindset goes like this: Whatever you feel like you should do, that’s what you should do, because God made you that way. Like you, I can quickly come up with a list that starts with “yeah, but…” Yeah, but, what if I want to kill someone? Yeah, but, what I don’t feel like being generous? Yeah, but, what it feels good to gossip?

The intention is to offer freedom. But does it actually work? Eventually, we will find out that “anything goes” is actually all about me. Shouldn’t worship be all about God?

Maybe we need to step away from the legalism we’ve inherited from generations of Christians who handed off religion rather than Jesus (religion, after all, is easier). The great irony is that we might walk away from one form of legalism into another.

Legalism isn’t just creating and following old rules, it’s defining religion so that you can control it. You can be legalistic (in control) by claiming that you experience God in the woods because, just like in religion, it is something you can control.

Maybe real freedom comes through doing something where we’re not in control: obeying. I suspect that worshipping God means putting him first. It’s about submission. Now I’m all for re-examining what Jesus actually wanted us to do. I’m just wondering, maybe we can find freedom, not by looking inward, but by doing what God says.

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