As we come to Matthew 5:17-20 this week, my questions and reflections are all about freedom, happiness, and growth.
Historically, freedom has always been a big thing for us in the U.S.A. (I’ll try to not quote “Braveheart.”) Freedom continues to be a big thing for us today. It may be fair to say that, in our culture, freedom is one of our most treasured and closely guarded values. We live in one of the most “free” countries and times in the history of the world. How is that working for us? Consider for a moment:
- What is freedom?
- What is the goal of freedom?
- What did freedom promise to achieve for us?
- What are we set free from?
- What are we set free to?
We automatically assume that freedom leads to (personal) growth and that personal growth leads to happiness. But, as we look at our world, what have we learned about how those things interact and relate to each other?
What about personal growth – becoming a “better” person? How does that connect with becoming more happy and fulfilled? In an economy and world that is all about “growth,” consider for a moment:
- How does personal growth happen? (How do we grow?)
- How do we change?
- How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?
- What are we growing towards? i.e., What is the goal/destination of our growth?
This next section of the Sermon on the Mount has made me think about these things. Take some time to consider Matthew 5:17-20, Jeremiah 31:31-33, and Romans 8:1-4. Take the above questions and your wondering to these texts and consider your assumptions. This week I’ve added a rather diverse collection of quotes and meditations below to guide you as we prepare to meet the God of freedom and growth together in worship this Sunday.
Yours in Christ,
Freedom means always keeping your options open, so it means you never settle on truth, you never arrive, you never rest. The accumulation of spiritual peak experiences can become like the greedy person’s accumulation of money. The more you get, the more you hunger for more. The life of perpetual choice is a life of perpetual longing as you are prodded by the inextinguishable desire to try the next new thing. David Brooks, Bobo’s in Paradise.
Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead and he shouldn’t have done it. He’s thrown everything off balance. If he did what he said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if he didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can. Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find.
Have you looked at these Christians closely? Hollow-eyed, pale-cheeked, flat-breasted all; they brood their lives away, unspurred by ambition: the sun shines for them, but they do not see it: the earth offers them its fullness, but they desire it not; all their desire is to renounce and to suffer that they may come to die. Henrik Ibsen, Emperor and Galilean, 1870.
The mind tends to justify whatever the heart has chosen. Francine Rivers, And the Shofar Blew.
Maybe we are simply scared, as this bloody century closes, that our vulgarities compete with our virtues and we lose more times than we’d care to admit. Think of Rwanda. Cambodia. Bosnia. Germany. Turkey. For all our talk of progress, human civilization hasn’t found a way to conquer the beast within. Joe Loya, The Animal Within Us All.