While the word “lockdown” trended in 2020 and early 2021, today, the new trending word may be “freedom”. In many ways the word freedom is slippery. It can often mean different things to different people. It is rarely a neutral term as different visions of freedom are not always compatible. Today, it could be argued that the dominant interpretation of the word is oftentimes self-serving. With all this in mind, how might we approach this new freedom?
We have recently begun a new teaching series called Living the Spirit Filled Life. The series seems very apt as we begin to ask questions about how we might open up again as a church post lockdown. As I am writing this reflection I am looking forward to a deacons away day where we will be wrestling with some of these questions, particularly making space so that we can listen to the Spirit.
In many ways we are entering a new season with excitement and trepidation in equal measure. In a recent article (below), Martin Hodson, from the Baptist Union of Scotland, noted that it is more common now to hear people talking of the ‘new different’. In a recent conversation, one of my neighbours commented that he was hoping that we would return to a life 2.0. This season has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on what is important and in many areas of our life our priorities have been changing. It was interesting to read that Scotland will be trialling a four-day week, but without a loss of pay.(1)
I would like to suggest we should approach freedom responsibly. As we enter into a season of new freedoms, individually and as a community, we should not take such freedoms for granted or squander them. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul identifies true freedom as a sign of the presence of the Spirit.
Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
Such freedom recognises that without the Holy Spirit’s enabling it is all too easy to serve our own agendas. How do we know if we are living in the Spirit? Because it transforms us in the likeness of Christ and inspires us to share His message of hope with our neighbours so that they might experience his freedom too. It is by living in the Spirit that we are guided to a ‘life full of receiving the love of Jesus and passing it onto others; a life full of the hope of heaven.’(2)
Freedom is not so much about being able to resume the activities we enjoyed before but rather the opportunity to consider how best to responsibly and effectively exercise our freedom, in the Spirit Filled Life, in the new different.
The community of disciples is not simply to enjoy its loving fellowship with one another, or to revel in the privileges God has bestowed upon them, or to take pride in its separation from the world. No, the church is intended to grow, to influence its world, to engage in acts of service and proclamation.(3)
Dunfermline West Baptist Church
Chalmers Street, Dunfermline