“Love God, and do whatever you will”
– St Augustine
This brief quote from one of the most eloquent Christians in history is a profound description of the liberty of the spirit that has truly known God. Our Lord Jesus Himself described this person’s freedom of spirit poetically when He said:
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
A true Christian lives by the law of liberty. I do not believe that genuine Christianity is about living your life inside a cage of rules and regulations.
“Thou shalt not…” was the baby sitter of our infancy, charged with protecting and teaching us in our vulnerable spiritual childhood. But now we have grown up, we live thus; “All things are lawful to me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 6:12). There is no real disagreement between these two. They both direct us to the same goal, humble obedience to God, albeit by different paths. The main difference is that the first is forced upon us, while the second is our own choice.
This liberty means the whole world is mine – there is nothing I need to fear. All doors are open to me, all knowledge is available to me. This marvellous universe God has lovingly created for me is mine to experience and to enjoy. But with liberty comes responsibility, and liberty must be used responsibly if it is to be of benefit and not harm. “All things are lawful to me, BUT not all things are helpful … not all things build up … I will not be made a slave to any” continues St Paul (see 1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23).
The second part of St Augustine’s words will not work without the first part being in place. Our liberty comes about and may be practiced safely and with benefit because we love God. To those who do not love God, but love the world or themselves above all else, liberty becomes the means of their destruction.
Sadly, there has always been a temptation to misuse this beautiful liberty throughout the history of Christianity. From the time of the Apostles, groups developed who squandered this precious gift and fell far from God (e.g. The Nicolaitans in Revelation chapters 2 & 3). Even today, cults develop that pervert the message and joy of Christian freedom.
And we as individuals commit the same sin when we justify our sins and say, “There’s nothing wrong with that! Who am I hurting?” or “He deserved it!” We also abuse it by allowing ourselves to get into tempting situations that are too hard for us. “I can listen to that violent music all day without being affected by it!” is a clear example of abuse of God’s liberty. I am using it to drag myself away from Him – how sad…
May God grant us the wisdom to use this great gift of liberty effectively and safely.