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renata carmichael 2013 (93)

Responsibility - Paul Stevenson

The fences are gone, but you can still see the fence posts. So we still know where the fences used to be. (We can still read them in the Old Testament. We just need to remember that those rules do not apply to us). But now there is no fence stopping us from going wherever we want to go.

The problem is, when there are no fences sheep, (and humans), just want to run wild. Kind of like teenagers as they start to become adults. They realise that they will no longer be under their parents' rules and they just want to take full advantage of that new found freedom. Sadly too many of them abuse that freedom by getting into alcohol and drugs, sleeping around, or getting into all sorts of trouble, even crime.

With freedom comes responsibility. We are suddenly free to do whatever we want, but we will have to answer for the choices that we make.

Remembering where the fences used to be is a good way of keeping ourselves out of trouble. Now we are allowed to eat the grass over near the dandelions, but to get near the dandelions we will have to cross that old boundary. And when we do that we should be very aware that this used to be against the rules and it may be dangerous. But there is nothing actually stopping us from going there. And it is not necessarily wrong to do it.

Some people get freaked out by the lack of fences and they try to build new ones of their own, a bit like the Pharisees did. I'm sure they mean well, but they not only build new fences for themselves, they try to build them for others too. They make new rules to replace the old ones: no drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no movies. These are all rules made up by people to make them feel safer, to make them feel like things are under control. Some of them are good principles, but this is not God's way. It is not Christianity. Christians are free. Completely free to do whatever they want.

Some people are very self righteous. They think they are righteous and they don't realise that none of us are righteous in our own effort. They worry that if we have no rules then we will run wild and do all sorts of terrible things. Paul even said that making rules like "don't touch this", "don't eat that", sounds like it's a good idea. He said that these rules have the appearance of wisdom, but they lack value in restraining the indulgence of the flesh. This thinking that we need to have rules to control us is founded in human wisdom. It is based on fear. And it doesn't even work.

God has created this system where we are completely free. Trust him. He knows what he is doing.

These "rules people" forget one massive difference between Christians and Old Testament Jews. Christians have the Holy Spirit living in them. Teaching, guiding, helping, empowering us, not only to do the right thing, but to want to do the right thing. If Christian "sheep" start wandering among the dandelions, they will soon be reminded by the Holy Spirit that this is a dangerous pastime. If we are willing to listen to him, and to obey, then even though we have complete freedom we will not fall into the same dangers that sheep used to fall into before the Law was given.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about wisdom, and especially about man's wisdom versus God's wisdom. About how people think they know what is right, but how far superior God's thinking is than ours. And how, no matter how smart, or clever, or righteous we think we are, we need to go to God and ask his advice all the time when it comes to big decisions. We need to learn to rely on his wisdom and not on our own understanding.

When we do that, we will be able to use our freedom wisely.

Just like me when I grew up, even though I knew that my father's rules no longer applied to me, I still kept them in mind as guidelines for a good life. So too, Christians should continue to make wise decisions for their lives, based on and guided by those old rules, but not bound by them. And relying on wisdom from the Holy Spirit, not wisdom from themselves.

We are free. We are no longer subject to those rules and their consequences.

Responsibility was the third in a series of three articles published in Catalyst

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