Mike Raburn

God speaks to you. Listen. Act on what you hear.

Freedom, hope, and holiness

Freedom, hope, and holiness are intrinsically tied together. That was one of the big claims I made in my PhD dissertation. And it’s quite a claim because they sure don’t seem to have much to do with each other. 

I grew up Pentecostal and holiness meant an extensive list of things I couldn’t do. The most famous were don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or say cuss words. But there were many, like don’t go to the movies or listen to rock music, especially not Christian rock which they thought was most evil, even though I could listen to all the country/honky tonk I wanted. Holiness was the opposite of freedom. It was an ever increasing set of restrictions. 

But all of that was mere cultural preference masking as religious requirement. None of it actually has anything to do with holiness. Holiness is another word for sanctification — that process where the Holy Spirit works in our lives to set us more and more free from hurts done to us and things we do that separate us from relationship with God and each other. 

That’s right, holiness means getting more and more free from junk we want free from: prejudice, hopelessness, anxiety, impatience, anger, callousness, cynicism, etc. The fruit the Spirit grows in our lives (Gal. 5.22-23) sets us free from their opposites. 

So what does hope have to do with this? Everything. Since holiness is a process of the Spirit setting each of us free, that process looks quite different from person to person. No two knots get untangled the same way. We have to give each other room to let the Spirit work that out in us. And the only way we can do that is to hope for that freedom for each other. We trust the Spirit to do the work in us and we hope for more freedom for ourselves and everyone we come in contact with. 

I’ve seen a lot of Christians lately who don’t seem to have any hope for their brothers and sisters. But there is still hope. We can trust the Spirit. We can hope for each other. And don’t get me wrong, I disagree with Jim Wallis who said the other day that hope is a decision. Not the kind of hope I’m talking about. This hope is a theological virtue, which is a fancy way of saying something the Spirit infuses in us and then trains us to exercise. 

Let’s ask the Spirit to renew our hope. And let’s follow the Spirit’s leading in hoping for each other. 

There is still hope. And it sets us free. To be truly holy. 

can the church be better than prison?

Recidivism is very high in the U.S. because ex-convicts are treated so poorly by society. They have a very hard time finding legitimate work, renting an apartment, opening a bank account, or getting a driver’s license. Many of the basic things we take for granted are denied or made hard for them. A church serious about prison ministry will need to take practical steps to help parolees find a job, a place to live, transportation, etc. They need full communal support to get on their feet. Lacking that, they often wind up back in jail. Sometimes jail becomes the one organized, safe place. They know they will have food and a bed. If we can’t do better for parolees than choosing to go back to jail, we need to rethink things.

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