Dear Family and Friends,
You may recall seeing the Support/Challenge Matrix in some of our publications. This diagram effectively demonstrates ways of being and operating that create a cultural pattern for a person or organization.
I was recently challenged to define what I mean by a culture of liberation. Is the concept biblical? Does it fit with our Incarnational Trinitarian Theology? The short answer is yes, it is biblical, and it fits with our theology. Further, it describes the emerging culture of GCI.
One of the greatest gifts Jesus gave us is freedom. Luke tells us Jesus has set us captives free (Luke 4:14-21). He is the one who has freed us from the dominance of legalism and the culture of fear and manipulation. He is the one, through the power of the Spirit, who has filled us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He is the one who moves out of the culture of apathy. He joins us to the purpose of the Father in pointing us to the eternal kingdom and away from the culture of self-centeredness and entitlement.
And yet we are called to participate. To do so, we must come out of the prison cells of our old self and our old surroundings and embrace the freshness of life in him. We are free because of him and through him. He is the one establishing the culture of empowerment and opportunity in us. It is his good pleasure to do this work in us.
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul talks plainly about what a healthy church community looks like.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Rather than a community that gets swept up in and entrapped by the noise, rhetoric, and false news of the day, in Christ we are freed to be a community that boldly “speaks the truth in love.” Striking the balance of high support and high challenge toward one another—out of “grace always”—is the sign of a healthy church, where leaders and members speak honestly and lovingly to one another. Being honest and loving is how we are joined and held together, and it is all from him who is the head of the church—the one who empowers us through the Spirit.
This may seem like a nuance, but a culture of liberation is not license. Rather it is a strong commitment to Christ and to one another. Empowerment and opportunity do not let us off the hook for being our brother and sister’s keeper. Being united in Christ means that we are for one another; we are accountable to each other—even (and maybe especially) when we experience differences of opinions. If it takes strong bones, toned muscles and elastic ligaments all in alignment for a human joint to operate smoothly and effectively, imagine how much active participation it takes from you and me to be a part of a mature healthy church?
The culture of liberation that we are growing into allows us to be free from sin, death, guilt, and shame, and yet it goes further. Not just “free from,” but “free for.” We are free to become the best versions of ourselves as we grow in relationship with Jesus and with one another. I think of freedom in Christ as an invitation and empowerment. I am free to join him and participate in much of what he is doing. I am free to see how he is at work in people around me, and I am free to share his love that he has liberally bestowed on me.
Brothers and sisters, it is Jesus who has joined us together. It is Jesus who liberates and empowers. May we embrace, celebrate, and perpetuate the culture of liberation that he is showering upon us.
Praising him for my liberation,