Liberty Without Licence
Persecuted, oppressed, abused or alienated people tend to be ruled by anxiety. They may spend their lives watching over their shoulder, anticipating the next insult or attack. Although this is a natural reaction, Peter urges Christians to cast off the shackles of fear and live by faith in the God who has called them (Galatians 2:20) - because He will only allow what is in His will. Instead of being bound by the terror of possible harm or even death, Peter instructs believers in Jesus to live as free people who have been released from slavery to fear (Hebrews 2:14-15).
People who submit to their leaders should not fear their power; people who know the truth should not be afraid of those whose accusation is groundless (1 Peter 2:13-15). Living in the truth brings freedom of spirit (John 8:32) in the same way that those living in the light are no longer frightened by the darkness (John 12:46). It is Satan’s ploy to make us believe that we are trapped by our circumstances, but that is a lie because the Lord knows what we encounter and will use it to strengthen us and bring praise to Himself (Job 23:10).
But even those who delight in their freedom as children of God (Galatians 5:1) are not immune to temptation. Instead of cowering, they may abuse their privilege and do what is wrong - while justifying their evil desires as being spiritual. The Early Church saw many such problems, from civil disorder to immorality and syncretism with either Judaism or paganism. 'Licentiousness' is an old-fashioned English word, but it sums up the problem. A licentious person has no moral restraint or self-discipline, no true respect for God's commands or the values of His Kingdom, often resulting in immorality and other vices. True liberty in Christ is not a licence to do what we like; it is freedom to serve Him without fear of what man might say or do (Hebrews 13:6).
Such problems still exist within churches worldwide. The church-approved pursuit of health, wealth and happiness has trapped many into a cycle of covert self-seeking, in which they cover up what does not please God by ‘spiritual’ talk and activity. Their prayers have no weight with God (James 4:3), their hypocrisy is obvious to God who will confront them with their duplicity on the Last Day (1 Corinthians 4:5). The only corrective is repentance and then obedience to the Word of God. Service is the great antidote to self-centredness. So, at work and in your community, there are two opposite temptations that stem from persecution; either to cower in fear, or to abuse Christ's freedom to advance your own interests. The remedy for both is to confess the sinful habits of the past and ask the Lord’s help to serve Him with a glad and willing heart - in a world which is ignorant of His love and proudly resistant to His salvation.
© Dr Paul Adams