"It is For freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and so not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -- Galatians 5:1
"Why don't your disciples live according to the traditions of the elders...?" Jesus was asked (Mark 7:5).
This was no casual question. Jesus had already demonstrated that he refused to go along with arbitrary or enslaving authority just to please the people. In fact, it probably seemed to many that he went out of' his way to violate all the accepted standards. He healed on the Sabbath. He allowed his disciples to "harvest" grain as they walked through the field on the Sabbath. And now he was encouraging his disciples to violate another tradition of the eiders: the ceremonial washing of hands.
One can just hear the remarks that well-meaning friends gave him: "Can't you just wait until Sunday? I mean, he's been in this condition all of his life, what's one more day!"... "Don't you realize that you'll just stir up trouble?"..."I think that you can do more good in the long run if you work within the system. Don't challenge them. It's no big deal anyway.
But Jesus DID challenge the arbitrary authority of his leaders. They were exceeding their rightful authority, and Jesus REFUSED to be under bondage!
The early disciples followed the same example. Jesus had taught them that arbitrary authority was not to be in His church. When this norm was challenged it always met with resistance.
In Corinth there were women who were using their new-found freedom in Christ as an excuse for taking control. In I Timothy 2:11-15 Paul refers to women who were in total control. The word he uses is weakly translated in many of our translations as "exercise authority." Actually it comes from a word that means "murder," and here means "'to have absolute power over." Certainly this could not be tolerated -- from either a woman or a man.
"I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church" (3 John 9-10) .
Diotrephes would fit in pretty well among the "leaders" of many churches today. But even John, the apostle of love, found this kind of despotism too intolerable to go unchallenged. Freedom is too dear to be lost!
The fact that we have so many people like Diotrephes is a great problem. But the fact that we tolerate it is an even greater problem.
We shrug our shoulders and say, "But what can we do?" We fail to see that Jesus himself' set the example: WE WALK IN FREEDOM!
There are congregations of God's people who are open and free. But one does not have to leave where he is to be free. There is also a place for those with the spirit of the prophets, who will bear witness to the "glorious freedom of the sons of God" right where they are. Any Christian can be free. All it takes is a willingness to walk in freedom!
T.William Daniel is an alumnus of both David Lipscomb College and Harding Graduate School. A former preacher, he presently assembles with an undenominational congregation of the Lord's body in Shelbyville, Tennessee.