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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Right To Choose

Written by: on February 28, 2015

Continuing this weeks reading of, A Secular Age, I came across a quote in Chapter 13 that specifically illustrates what I believe is a major problem in churches within the US and other Western countries. “Most of us in America believe a few simple propositions that seem so clear and self-evident they scarcely need to be said. Choice is a good thing in life, and the more of it we have, the happier we are. Authority is inherently suspect; nobody should have the right to tell others what to think or how to behave. Sin isn’t personal, it’s social; individual human beings are creatures of the society they live in.”[1] I am not against an individual’s right to choice, as long as it is within God’s will/plan for mankind. Christianity is all about freedom from sin and death through Christ. God does not want mindless robots, but a unique relationship with each one of us.

I believe that the issue is that we have taken freedom in Christ to mean freedom of choice, which can lead to rebellion against God’s established limitations on our lives. I have yet to find a passage in scripture where God commands that I am free to do anything I want. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see God placing limits on how we should act, think, and obey.

Many people even ignore the Ten Commandments, found in Deuteronomy 5:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
  4. Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Throughout my ministry experience, I’ve found that many people no longer believe that sin is a personal issue, and even further that no one has the right to call you out on your sin. This also goes against what scripture teaches, but somehow these propositions have infiltrated Christian doctrine in many denominations. Within the Christian community, we are to bear each other’s burdens and to be accountable to each other. We aren’t to judge one another, but we are to help each other recognize when we are doing wrong. Without recognition, admittance, and repentance, people cannot truly live a holy lifestyle and realize the blessing that comes from this. So, in the end they really aren’t free.

Are others seeing the same alarming trends in their church communities?

 

 

[1] Charles TAYLOR. A SECULAR AGE (Kindle Locations 7629-7631). Kindle Edition.

 

 

About the Author

Richard Volzke

9 responses to “The Right To Choose”

  1. Michael Badriaki says:

    Hi Richard, you bring out a good point from Taylor’s quote in his book. The lack of repentance and people’s unwillingness to acknowledge sin is a problem. At the same time, I wonder whether some people’s negative response to the “subject of sin” might also have to do with how weary some people are about the way the church has at times handled people’s issues of sin and “church discipline” in particular.

    Yet as you mentioned, scripture teaches about confession, repentance and deliverance from sin.

    Thank you Richard.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Michael,
      I agree that some people do not trust the church to accepted them, because of their past sins. Legalism can still be found in many churches across the U.S. As leaders, we need to teach and preach that God does not hold one type of sin over another. There is often an attitude that some types of people are not wanted or welcome in church.
      Richard

  2. Russ Pierson says:

    Richard,

    Thanks for highlighting that point in Taylor about the effects of the Western conception of individual choice. For me, growing up around the edges of fundamentalism, I fear the church I knew then hammered hard on personal sin while failing to recognize the horrific impacts of systemic sin. To simplify it and put faces to it, we were “Billy Graham Christians” rather than “MLK Jr. Christians”. Surely both are true and both messages are biblical: I need Billy Graham to pull me out of the mire and I need MLK to inspire me to make a difference in the world around me.

    Great thoughts,

    Russ

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Russ,
      I also grew exposed to fundamentalist views and understand the legalism that was/is rampant in the movement. One issue I see is that we have labeled sin and put it into categories. For example, many churches will accept someone who is a recovering alcoholic or drug abuser, but will reject a person who was a child molester. We have the attitude that we do not want “those types of people” in our church. We agree that they need Jesus, but the attitude is that they can find him somewhere else. I’ve been guilty of this line of thinking myself.
      Richard

  3. Wow what a quote you found. So true that all things are subject to commodification thus giving the consumer unending choices and yet no one is allowed to give guidance to the consumer about his passions or desires that never cease to alleviate the deep issues of his heart. Authority is inherently suspect and therefore rendered useless. And if sin is not personal than it is no longer a personal God that I need. Society, those people, need to be fixed, but I am ok. Wow. How we have become so blind to our own malady. Thanks Richard.

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Mitch,
      I believe the reason we have become blind is because we have allowed the world to infiltrate the church on every level. In my ministry, I have visited many churches where I could not feel the presence of God in the building, and the service was nothing more than a ‘feel good’ show. The church has become so concerned with making sure that it is relevant in today’s culture, that it has become blinded to so many dangers.
      Richard

  4. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Richard, this is a great quote you pulled out. I think you have hit upon such a good point. We are to hold each other accountable and encourage our neighbors when they are down and celebrate with them when they are joyous. I think the main problem comes that we have forgotten how to live in community, and we, as leaders, are doing a poor job of promoting community – via small groups or the like. Perhaps we need to take a step back and assess how we create community in our faith families?

    • Richard Volzke says:

      Ashley,
      I agree we have forgotten that we are a community in Christ. There is a corporate side to our Christian faith and the Western church has appeared to forget that fact. Our idea of community has become what we know as “small groups” rather than a true community as we see in Acts. We have made the Christian walk an individual experience and place little value on the relationship side of our faith. God designed us to be in relationship with each other.
      Richard

  5. mm John Woodward says:

    Richard, I can’t agree with you more. There are several words that come to mind as I read your post: repentance, humility, sacrifice, sin. I am learning lately that the heart of Gospel is found through repentance – an awareness of our helplessness and utter need for God. It is a concept that so goes against the thinking and attitude of the world today. A real understanding of our hearts might not make us so desirous of wanting to be free to do what we want…! How come it is so hard for us as Christians to hold on to the basics – that God is Lord and we need to fall completely into His will and embrace? Pride? Selfishness?

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