02 September 2015

Feelings and Freedom

I'm 26 today.  There's that.

I guess I'll spend my birthday post this year riffing about freedom.

People misunderstand the premise.  Most folks who talk about personal freedoms and the importance of individuality, tolerance, etc all imply a faulty premise, and that is that freedom is the right to do anything I want.  Disney's OS, "follow your heart," has a lot of resonance with a culture that says life is what you make it and appeals to no higher authority than the self.

Shocker: that line of thinking is fundamentally flawed.

Thankfully, the Word of God sheds illumination to this point.  The Apostle Peter, in his second epistle, records the following concerning false teachers who peddle feelings-based religion:

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm...  for, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Pet 2.17-19)

The lie that false prophets always push is that their method brings true freedom.  Their cleanse diet, their Hail Mary's, their Kool Aid, their new spin on an old concept.  But the reality is, no matter the gift-wrapped pill they offer, it is still based on self-servitude.  In other words, I do something to make me feel spiritually heightened.  The problem therefore is not with the desire to assuage guilt or baggage, but with the insatiable need to do something to feel something.

That's the freeing nature of the gospel -- not that we no longer have to feel or that we shouldn't want to feel things, but that we no longer have to feel things as a basis for a sense of spiritual wellness.  What overcomes me is no longer my overwhelming desires -- "I must eat," "I must find love" -- but the love, grace, mercy, and motivation of Jesus Christ.

My doing anything is a passionate response to grace, not a desperate quest for it.

Faith in Jesus enables me to be truly free.  While I'm not free in the popular definition (able to do whatever I want with no consequences), I am truly free because I no longer have to do what my heart tells me to.  In other words, I am no loner a slave to corruption, or whatever "overcomes" me.  If I must do what "feels right" and navigate my life by a sensation of "rightness," by following my heart, -- which may or may not but probably will lead me into self-destructive tendencies -- then I'm merely a slave to corruption: my own passions.  I'm a slave to what has overcome me.

Through Christ, that's no longer the case.

Before our Savior plucks us from the path of destruction, we can't help but blindly follow our emotions.  Relationships are about who makes us feel good.  College and career choices are about what feels right and what I want for my life.  Beliefs are about what makes me feel wise and enlightened.

By this mode of operation, we must do to feel.

Freedom through Christ, however, brings stability.  Righteousness through faith in Him doesn't negate my feelings, but it enables me to see through them.  It enables me to navigate by truth and certainty -- as opposed to following a course that shifts on a whim.

True freedom is liberation from sensation.  Not a denial of or an aversion to feelings and emotions (that's just monastic, self-abasing asceticism), but the subjugation of them.  God never said "Don't feel;" He said, "Don't be a slave to feeling."  In other words, as a follower of Christ, I don't have to "feel" something to know it's right.  I don't have to stumble into wanton self-indulgence because I was blindly following the helter-skelter roller-coaster of my desires.  And in the process of subjugating my feelings to the Truth of God's Word, I can begin to realign my sinful heart, bringing my desires and emotions and pleasures into the God-given parameters of holiness.

Those whom the Son frees are free indeed (John 8.36) -- from desire and from sin.  But freedom from these things is also freedom to responsibility.  Let those who call themselves followers of Christ abide in Him in this way.