Racial Tension and the Need for Freedom and Obligation

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A woman caught in adultery is thrown at Jesus’ feet in John 8. As Jesus dismisses her accusers, he gives her freedom through the forgiveness of her sin AND he tells her to go and sin no more.

In Mark 5 a demoniac comes running out of the tombs to see Jesus. He is naked. He is bleeding. He is unclean and demon-possessed. After Jesus frees him from his demons the man asks to join Jesus and his disciples. Jesus, instead, sends him home to tell people there what the Lord has done for him.

There are many similar stories and examples of the idea that with freedom comes obligation. We could add the opening of the 10 commandments – I am the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, have no other ‘gods’ before me…and many other passages to make the same point – freedom comes with obligation.

This is not a divine “gotcha”.

This is no holy bait and switch.

Freedom properly understood should bear the fruit of obligation. If you know where you were and you know how you were freed, it should leave anyone with half a heart asking what they should do in a response of gratitude. “Since these things took place, what now is required of me?”

This sense of obligation is missing in our world today. We have so valued freedom and self-determination that many have jettisoned their sense of obligation to their fellow man.

One Summer Sunday evening we had a panel discussion, hearing from people of varying generations. A Vietnam vet in his late 60s said that he thought what his generation could teach the younger generation was obligation.

I think he was right.

We have emphasized freedom without pairing it with obligation. When you have been set free it comes with a response of obligation to others…the desire for them to also experience the same kind of freedom you have been given.

Freedom without obligation is the slave master mentality. I get my way and I have no obligation to you.

Obligation without freedom is slavery. I must do what you say regardless of how I feel about it.

One without the other is abusive.

We are seeing people today expressing extremist positions – neo-nazisim, KKK, you name it. They are exercising their freedom without pairing that freedom with an obligation to their fellow man. You have the freedom to say many things but what you say has repercussions. Freedom does not mean freedom from the consequences of your actions. If what I see on social media is any indication, some seem to be unaware of this.

We need to uphold our freedom AND understand the obligation to others that comes with it. This has been lost today and it must be reclaimed if we are to have any chance of engaging in a healthy dialog toward a brighter future.

The church must lead the way on this.

I believe revival is coming. This is not the post to get into it but I will soon and I ask you to pray that through these dark moments that God’s people seize the opportunity to stand in the gap and let Jesus shine through us to the world.

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