During the sermon this past Sunday, we spent some time thinking about the importance of Christian liberty. In his book, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Politics in a Divided Age, Jonathan Leeman wrote: “Christian liberty is crucial to church unity.” This is very true! In the church, it is Christ that unites us and the commission to the church is to “teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:20). Therefore, Christian liberty issues are the things that Scripture does not speak to. Christian liberty issues are often related to wisdom in applying Scripture to one’s context.
For example, Scripture makes clear that parents are to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This most certainly would include educating our children. However, Scripture doesn’t explicitly spell out how one should educate their children as far as public school, private school, or homeschool. I believe this is a Christian liberty issue. In short, Scripture is clear that parents are responsible for instructing their children but does not spell out down to the detail exactly how parents should do it. That’s where Christian liberty comes into play. The “how” will look different from home to home.
Why is this important for church unity? Well, because we love to divide ourselves into social groups based on all kinds of preferences. Yet, the church is different. The church is made up of a diverse group of people who have found salvation in Christ. The church is a group of redeemed sinners united in Christ alone. Not Jesus plus cultural similarities or preferences! No, the church is not to be like the world uniting around those things. What makes the church distinct is its unity in diversity as it gathers around Christ.
If we are going to have this kind of otherworldly unity in the church we are going to have to work hard to graciously protect and promote Christian liberty.
Leeman’s book referenced above focuses on politics, another great example where Christian liberty must be upheld. I’ll close with a fuller quote from him. He wrote:
Christian liberty is crucial to church unity. When we speak beyond where Scripture authorizes us to go, we risk dividing the church where the Bible does not, and one day we will have to give an account to King Jesus for that. You’ve heard the saying, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” That’s a good rule of thumb. (pg. 93)