Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17, John 8:32
Sermon: “What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live?!”
Christopher Hitchens is the provocative atheist who calls Mother Theresa a “fundamentalist fanatic and fraud.” Listen to the beginning of his 60 Minutes interview…
a “lying, thieving Albanian dwarf.” Drinks/smokes like a fish—gallons of Johnnie Walker
Recent bestseller is God is not Great.
Religion is the source of all tyranny.
But here’s what I want to get to, Hitchens says, If the God of the Bible is true, then life is like living in a celestial North Korea. Whoa! This begs the question: how do we become truly free?
Our culture thinks of freedom as a freedom from restraints. In other words, freedom consists, in a Hitchensian world, of no one having the right to tell me how to live. We’re like the 3 year old who pulled a chair behind the drapes, and up to the bay window. Mom came into the room to see his little legs sticking out from under the curtains, and she heard him mumbling something. So Mom snuck closer, only to hear him say, as he looked longingly outside, I’ve gotta get out of here. In a freedom from world, religion is just an earthly and celestial trap!
Freedom from thinking is very critical of religion because exclusive truth claim repress individuals and communities. For example, we say, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. They say, That represses my way to God, my beliefs. What if I want to believe in Mohammed instead? Indeed, Hitchens goes on, the belief in the divine is the origin of all dictatorship. For in this worldview the motivation to believe in an exclusive religion like ours is the wish to be a slave.
Now some of freedom from thinking is true, right? We all pray that Libya can eventually be free from Moamar Ghadafy, like we were freed from King George. We pray that our daugh-ter can be liberated from the man who slaps her, and that our son be freed from googling female breasts, and we from cake. Even the Ten Commandments starts with a freedom from statement.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of…
And we remember how God’s people could not experience greater freedom until they were free from the whip cracking over their heads in Egypt. And we celebrate this with them on Passover.
But if we only think of freedom from restraint, the freedom train dead ends. So as Hitchens is free to drink, what he calls Mr. Walker’s amber restorative, and to smoke as much as he wants, he is also enslaved to the consequences of a weakened liver and an elite, Stage 4 cancer.
The criticism that exclusive communities repress also hits a dead end. I mean don’t all groups have boundaries: Republicans don’t welcome Democrats into their clubs, Breast Cancer Survivor Support Groups may not want me, etc. You can’t have community without exclusivity, can you?
And lastly complete freedom from restraint is ridiculous: But officer, I don’t feel liberated going only 55—90 is more my pace, sir. Or, I don’t feel a personal need to pay taxes. Or, I find faithfulness to one woman to be confining. Or, I need to express my anger with my hands.
So the freedom train may begin at the town of freedom from but needs to pass through the town of freedom for to arrive at the Promised Land. Jesus said, You shall know the…
In other words, true freedom consists in guidelines in line with our design. In line with what we’re made for. In this sense, Nelson Mandella, rotting in that jail cell, was freer than his guards. Because he was free for something. For the liberation of his people. Let my people go!
So the Ten Commandments give the greatest freedom, as guidelines in line with our design, by telling us what we are free for. Basically, we’re free for God and for relationship.
The first four commandments tell us how we are free for God. Two things I want to gather from these four commandments. First, I want you to turn to your neighbor and say,
There is a god, and you’re not it…
Martin Luther has said that if you obey the first commandment by letting God be God, you’ll keep all of the rest. The second great freedom to gain from these commandments is in #4:
Worship God, not work.
We live in a culture chained to work and money, but Jesus wants to free you to worship God.
The last six commandments free you for relationship. Basically commandments 5-7 are about family and commandments 8-10 are, or can be, about finances. In the ancient world folks were promiscuous with their bodies, and stingy with their money–as the new pagans are again today, right? But God freed the people for relationship by flipping that. Diognetas wrote,
We share our table with all, we do not share our bed with all.
That freed God’s people for God, not only, but for each other, and you cannot otherwise be free.
What if Christopher Hitchens lived up to his first name, in Greek, Christ-bearer?
What if, somewhere along the line some clergy person said,
You’re right, I am sorry for all the times the church promoted injustice rather than love.
What if Christ’s purpose filled Hitchens to find meaning in other than poking holes in the holy?
(If you try to see through everything, including first principles,you end up seeing nothing, right?)
What if the church argued with him less and loved him more, such that he was awed by Jesus?
What if the church prayed for him, years ago, to have Christ’s power to wrestle his addictions?
Might not then Christopher Hitchens experience the truth that sets you free, free for God/others, and free from cancer? Whether he ever does, let’s receive our true freedom now in prayer.
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