Benedict’s Rule: Freedom for What?

Ask any prisoners freed from jail and they will tell you that some of their most vulnerable days were immediately following their release.  They were “free,” but free for what?

Similarly, we are a people who crave to be “free.”  I grew up in the generation that made “freedom” a cardinal virtue, but many in that generation fell prey to all sorts of addictions and disorders.  We were “free,” but without any idea of what it meant to be free.

When we speak of freedom in the spiritual life we mean the liberty (made possible by grace) to do God’s will.  The original sin (egotism) made us “fast bound in sin and nature’s night” (as Charles Wesley put it), leaving us slaves to our own self-centeredness.

But Christ has set us free!  We are no longer “bound” to sin (that is to do the bidding of the False Self).  We are now free to fully pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and to see ourselves as participants in that prayer!

This freedom is not a once-for-all experience.  It is more nearly a moment-by-moment choice—a choice that repeatedly throws us upon the power of grace to actually “do” what we say.  Words become realities, not just posturings.  Our convictions have substance, not just image.  We are, in fact,—inwardly and outwardly—what we profess to be.

De Waal calls this freedom “the willing obedience which says, ‘Yes’ with our whole person to the infinite love of God, so that outward observance springs from inward assent, a bending of our free will toward the will of Christ, which will finally make us collaborators with him” (p. 50)

This is what the psalmist meant when writing, “I will run the way of thy commandments when thou hast set my heart at liberty” (119:32).  We are free to be the people God has had in mind for us to be all along!

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Benedict’s Rule: Freedom for What?

  1. Steve Williams says:

    Group, if I have been ignorant of the context in my posting, please forgive me. God has been active in my life lately along these lines and the above posting by Steve Harper and my reply just seemed to go. I love Steve Harper and his work. Since I am not a professional or highly educated theologian, I will be careful in my replies. Bless you all.

  2. Steve Williams says:

    I have found it a very humbling experience to realize this freedom as a result, a by-product of the men I have taught and discipled. I think it fits here to say I lived this moment when a man I taught in a 2 1/2 years ago in a discipleship class asked me to lunch recently. At lunch while we caught up with what has been going on with our lives he started getting choked up and began to cry. Barely able to talk he told me he is a better man since he was taught by me. I reminded him I am just a tool of our Lord doing what I was called to do. We went our separate ways, but i cried like a baby when I got home because I realized with this man I had truly done God’s will as called.

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