Posts Tagged ‘autonomy’

When we speak of freedom we are most often referring to the exercise of our free will.  Essentially, it is the ability to make our own choices, to speak our mind, and to act in whatever way seems right to us.  In American culture it is a term synonymous with independence, self-sufficiency and self-rule.  But these attributes do not describe the freedom that Christ died to give us (Gal. 5:1).  Instead, He offers a love that never fails, a joy that can be our strength, a peace that surpasses understanding, and a hope that cannot be shaken.  One is largely rooted in our external condition, while the other is established in our internal state of being.  And while we can rightfully boast of living in a nation that affords us a high level of personal autonomy, we are a people plagued by hurt, fear, offense, anxiety, and addiction.  Indeed, “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them” (2Pet. 2:19) and in this regard, we have largely been taken captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies, which depend on human tradition, and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ (Col. 2:8)..  Sadly, it is our passion for the former that often keeps us from partaking of the latter.

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The Greeks had a god for everything, and temples were erected all over their cities to facilitate the worship of them.  As time goes by, America is becoming much the same.  Here is a list of a few of the most popular gods within our culture.


  • Self– Certainly self absorption is nothing new for mankind, but previous generations didn’t have the amazing technology that we have to assist them.  American’s are completely consumed with making sure everyone knows their status (Facebook, Instagram), hears their opinions (Twitter, the Blogosphere), see’s their images (selfies, YouTube, Snapchat) and is appraised of their likes and/or dislikes (all social media).  The cumulative effect is that it keeps most people focused on themselves, and on what everyone else is thinking & saying about them.


  • Technology– Americans pay billions of dollars a year to be a part of the newest technological craze.  Whether it be the latest i-Phone, or a hover-board, or a GoPro, or self-driving cars… we can’t stand the idea that there is something newer, and possibly more advanced, than what we have already.  Sadly, the emerging generation has so much faith in the power of technology that they’ve become largely disconnected from the lessons of the past.


  • Humanism– We’ve become a society that willingly disparages the character of God in order to substantiate the inherent virtue of mankind.  We shun the “Holy Spirit” and celebrate the “human spirit”.  Collectively, we’ve decided that if God has a problem with us, He must not be as loving as we’ve been told, and thus we have every right to ignore Him.


  • Convenience– Our culture is absolutely obsessed with making everything fast, easy, and achievable with the touch of a button.  We have an “app” for just about anything you can think of, and a huge amount of an average person’s life is channeled through their electronic devices.  But with every advance in this direction, we become less tolerant of things that require any sort of sustained effort on our part, or things that take time.  We also become more dependent on the technology for even the most basic of functions.  Given the fact that life is a long journey, which requires genuine determination, perseverance and patience, this trend doesn’t bode well for our future.


  • Sensuality– Without a doubt, sex is meant to be one of life’s great pleasures, but just as doubtless, there is a context within which it was meant to fit in our lives.  In the decades since the “Sexual Revolution” began, our culture has found ways to inject sex into all sorts of settings, circumstances, and contexts where it doesn’t belong.  This has not only resulted in confusion and dysfunction, for many it has reduced sex to little more than a bodily function.  That’s sad, because it was intended to be so much more.


  • Voyeurism– My kids have no idea what a “Peeping Tom” is, and I would submit that this is due to the fact that (figuratively speaking) peeking into people’s windows has become a national pastime.  While it may have started with a litany of “Reality TV” shows, there are now surveillance cameras everywhere, a host of scammers combing the web for personal information, and millions of would-be photographers/reporters carrying portable electronic devices, and looking for that next viral sensation.  Indeed, there is little within our present culture that could accurately be characterized as “private”.


  • Celebrity– The insatiable craving for notoriety within our culture continues to fill our screens (both large and small) with images of people willing to eat bugs, wife swap, gender swap, submit themselves to dangerous circumstances, fix bad tattoos, torment their kids, wrestle alligators/snapping turtles/wolverines, bully their wedding planner, search for Bigfoot…  And all of this has created a new breed of celebrity that includes people like the “Reality TV Star”, and the “You-Tube Star”.  Many of these folks are not known for a specific talent, or some meaningful contribution to society, they’re simply famous for being famous (e.g. the Kardashians); which somehow manages to take the superficiality of “fame and fortune” to a whole new level.


  • Autonomy– In our culture, we don’t generally admire people who follow the rules.  More typically, we revere those who make up their own.  Increasingly, people don’t feel as though they should have to abide by a rule that they think is stupid, or unwarranted, or that they simply disagree with.  This trait is commonly reflected in the people our society raises to the level of “hero”, and in the characters popular entertainment presents as “super-heroes”.  While a life with “no boundaries” may sound appealing, it is by definition a state of lawlessness.

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The Humanist wants to believe that left to its own devices mankind would eventually create a Utopia. Unfortunately for them, all of human history flies in the face of that notion. While Mr. Lennon could imagine a world with “no heaven”, “no hell”, and with a “people living for today” as paradise, history must once again protest that it would be anything but that. To be sure, it is our very nature to relish the autonomy that accompanies the idea that every man defines truth for himself (i.e. relative truth), yet our demands for justice remain absolute in the things we choose to abhor. To shun the concept that there is a power and authority that is greater than any man could possess is to forfeit our place of refuge from life’s inevitable storms. In such cases we are forced to create imaginary friends, like luck or fate, in order to produce some small sense of hope. But alas, it’s all too much like spending the rent money on lottery tickets. Like the popular country artist, Tim McGraw, sings, life tends to lead us to either “drugs or Jesus”.

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Last Sunday (i.e. July 4th), as I prayed for this country (i.e. the USA), I began to see the undeniable bond between freedom and sacrifice.  I thought of our forefathers, most of whom sacrificed their fortunes, reputations and comfort to forge a new republic.  I thought of those who sacrificed their lives in the revolutionary war, in the hope that their brethren could attain some new level of freedom.  I thought of how democracy hinges on a people’s willingness to sacrifice a certain amount of their personal autonomy for the greater good of the group.  And I thought of all those who’ve sacrificed their lives in order to preserve this wonderful freedom that we’ve inherited.

But as I pondered this connection between freedom and sacrifice, in light of where our society is today, I had to wonder what will be left of it for our children.  We seem to live in a time when people are increasingly unwilling to sacrifice anything.  The collective cultural psyche seems to be that we can somehow “have it all”, which is essentially the anti-thesis of sacrifice.  When we reach the place that we are unwilling to yield our personal position for the greater good of the whole, we create a situation where it’s every man for himself and ultimately, survival of the fittest.  One of the great dangers in becoming the most powerful nation in the world is that it can cause a people to believe that the days of sacrifice have ended; but without sacrifice, the freedom will not stand.

For those of us who count ourselves as Christians, this connection between freedom and sacrifice ought to be abundantly clear; as it was Jesus’ sacrifice that attained eternal freedom for us.  But despite the perfection of His sacrifice, we too must be willing to partake of the crucifixion of our flesh in order to walk in the genuine freedom He attained for us.  Unfortunately, just as in the culture, the American version of Christianity seems to be increasingly predicated on the idea that we can (and even should) “have it all”.  But as the concept of sacrifice diminishes in our churches, it is hard to deny that it seems to be taking the freedom with it.

If Jesus (i.e. the Son of God, a man of perfect faith) learned obedience from the things He suffered, how can we expect any less?

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