“You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” This is being a Christian is all about
We can see very clearly there in that quote the corporate nature of Christianity. We find out who we are, and grow and find fulfilment in relationships with each other. Relationships bring with them responsibilities, and also necessitates fostering virtues like patience and compassion.
It is one of the basic premises of Christianity that it is in obedience to God we find Freedom. That nowadays would seem like a paradox to modern ears. Obedience and Freedom are incompatible to the modern Western mind.
There was a very interesting opinion piece in the Church Times this week that noted that “Freedom” is always portrayed in our culture as an individual “alone”, unfettered by people and their needs and demands and having no responsibilities to anyone or anything, either moral or social.
The author, Hugh Rayment-Pickard notes that Freedom is equated with isolation, and is most often pictured as individuals silhouetted against open skies and cites a recent Volkswagon ad. where you have a put- upon dad sullenly trailing around with his wife and children, until at last he can motor off alone in an empty car and a satisfied smile on his face.
But this individualistic caricature of freedom is essentially a fantasy. A fantasy of no expectations, no responsibilities, no laws or duties, no one to tell us what to do.
The reality is that this leads us to total isolation, and loneliness, which just happens to be a good definition of one Christian understanding of hell.
The Christian community is radically opposed to such fantasies. Because individualism like that also leads us to spiritual misery.
I love Paul’s description of the church we find here in Ephesians which is so counter cultural.
“Members of the household of God, built upon the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is held together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. We are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God”
To understand yourself in that context is empowering. Paul is talking about us! Individual Christians who find ourselves and our meaning and purpose as joined together mystically as the house of God.
These stones around us are not the house of God. We are the house of God.
When people relate to each other and form a body there are rules and rights and responsibilities that enable us to rub along together and grow together. These are provided by God himself and in obedience to these rules we find true freedom.
These rules or guidelines for living and relating to each other (whether outward law or as a response to an inner Grace) are given not to imprison us, but God knows us better than we know ourselves and are there to help us lead a full life.
The absence of rules, order and law and responsibility is not “freedom” as modern advertising culture would have us believe but chaos. Ask any citizen of a failed state from Libya to Iraq.
It has always been thus from the very beginning. In Genesis, the very act of creation itself was to bring order out of chaos.