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On Freedom 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
Freedom. It’s one of the bedrocks of our national identity. It’s the rallying cry of our society, as we see in the ending exclamation of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s famous “I have a dream” speech. It’s at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. But are they the same kind of freedom?
Are we free to do whatever we want? Can you bring an automatic weapon with multiple clips into a school? Can you scream fire in a crowded theatre? Should you be able to walk through the city naked, no matter who sees you, because we’re free? Should we be able to use specific faith language in our life? Do we have the freedom to search whatever we want on the internet, and talk with whoever we like on our cell phones in total privacy? Those are the some of the contemporary questions around which we struggle to define freedom in our culture.
In Exodus we’ve been wrestling with the story of freedom – the Israelites freed from slavery in Egypt, freed to be able to worship the God of their ancestors, freed for their story of freedom to be a good news proclamation of what the Living God wants for all people of all nations. Freedom is a good thing, and yet in our culture some argue that our insistence on freedom actually enslaves us. We are constantly told that we are free to do whatever we want, to become whatever we want. And yet we encounter glass ceilings, large walls, immense speed bumps. We are limited by our finances, our gender, racial background, educational level, family histories and dependencies In our diversity we are not truly all able to do whatever we want. Such dissonance between our ideals and our reality can cause frustration, confusion, even depression.
Theological Themes, Interesting Points & Inter-textual links:
Corinth was a city in ancient Greece that was an urban metropolis of diversity. People from across the Mediterranean Basin and Roman Empire lived in this great city known for its port, central location and market. Much like the Bay Area is was a place of great cultural mixing and fusion, creation and collaboration.
The church is Corinth was vibrant – truly multicultural, inter-generational and crossed class boundaries. The gift of such diversity is also its challenge – it’s hard to keep different and diverse people on the same page even if they have a common vision. Paul writes to address division in the church community which comes from claims to greater authority and deeper freedom than other disciples. Apollos was a church planter at this time. It seems that some thought they were better or worse than others based upon the baptism each member had received. Who had done the baptism was almost more important than what the baptism was for. It’s similar to freedom. Often being free becomes more important than that for which we are freed.
Paul focuses in on responsibility. We are not freed in Christ for our own sake. We are freed and become the temple of God. It’s a freedom with responsibility, a freedom with limits. Does that mean it’s a freedom with strings attached? Or does it mean something else?
How does it change things in our relationships, encounters and partnerships to see ourselves as the Temple of God? To see those we walk and talk with as the Temple of God? How does that freedom impact the way we see the world?; each other?; ourselves?; God?
How does this notion of us being the temple of God relate to what we read about the Tabernacle in Exodus 25-40? How does it relate to what Jesus says about destroying the Temple in Jerusalem in John 3:13-25? How does it relate to Galatians 3:23-29 where Paul talks about our freedom being a force that unifies us?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in these texts? Why? How does it contain good news for us?
2. How do you feel not free, or enslaved, limited or constrained – not able to be fully all of who God created you to be? What imprisons you? The world?; someone else?; yourself?
3. What freedom do you have? What are you freed from?; freed for?; freed to?
4. How do we live, and not live, out our common faith in Christ in community as a proclamation of what God’s wants for all of us? How do we need to be freed?