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Freedom from ...Freedom to ...

Thu, 07 May 2009 - 2:00 PM CST

By Anita Koeshall

Once in an exercise for our student leadership team in Berlin, I had the students draw two "typical" students, a man and a woman. It was fun to watch as they created a chic Eva with leggings and a mini-skirt and a buff-looking Jürg - both with their iPods and earrings. As they began to describe their student creations, freedom was a dominant word. Eva and Jürg wanted to be free from restrictions and restraints, free from parental rule, free from binding relationships or moral codes that would constrain them in their search for self-identity and fulfillment.

Freedom from ...

Freedom in our European cultural setting has become focused on lack of obligation, individual rights, and the desire to guide one's own destiny. Our student leaders quickly grasped that they too are firmly planted in this cultural expectation - one that all of us in the West are familiar with. How difficult it is to commit oneself, to give oneself to create a community that brings health and life to the world around us. It is much easier to "keep our options open." How do you build a church, a student group, or even a garden club in that kind of cultural environment?

Freedom from has become the dominant focus of freedom in today's world, and even in the church. We love that dimension. Indeed, we have been set free, from sin and death, from our incapacity to live in communion with Him, with one another and with our environments.

However, there was a time when freedom had more of the meaning of freedom to...

Freedom to ...

On that same trip to Germany, we visited the Berlin Philharmonic for an incredible concert. The music was captivating, although there was no sense of organization or melody that I could follow. Multiple types of drums, several kinds of organs, and a full orchestra supported the performance of the grand pianist. For 2 hours, he mastered the keyboard from top to bottom, playing extremely complicated music by memory. God had given him musical gifts which he, through discipline and perseverance, had mastered until he had total freedom on the piano to express the music, and had total freedom to perform for us, the enthusiastic audience.

"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love" (Galatians 5:13, NIV).

Expecting "freedom from" without also accepting "freedom to" is only half the freedom God has for us. Challenging our culture, we can choose to be covenanted with others, serve, and give to others. Our gifts, coupled with discipline, can be developed like the pianist's, so that we can use them to delight and serve others.

So let us be free from the things that distract, trap, and destroy in order to be free to serve with all of your giftings in the community of faith.

Anita Koeshall is the commissioner for the Commission on Student Ministry, and a professor of Intercultural studies at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. She also serves in Europe as a missionary with Students for Christ. She and her husband John have four grown children.

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