My son Andrew graduated from college recently and as a memento of the occasion I asked various family members in attendance to share a Bible verse for Andrew with his future in mind. I highlighted each verse and folded each page accordion-style.  From these I crafted a Hawaiian-styled lei for him.

Leis are ubiquitous in west coast graduations, and Bible verses are sprinkled throughout graduation cards across the nation.  However, one family member contributed a verse that  caught my attention.

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 2 Corinthians 3:17

These words rose like the noon-day sun above the more familiar “paths straight” and “plans to prosper” selections.  This, I thought to myself, contains a pearl of wisdom, a pearl born from someone’s experience.

Today, in the month of July, liberty is on our lips.  Think of this famous Fourth of July type quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Patrick Henry

When we give our lives to Christ we sign up for freedom from the weight of our past, freedom to grow in the ideas and thoughts of God and a community to support this.  And this implies the liberty to decide for ourselves what God values and how to implement those ideals in our daily lives.

We can be heroes in the hall of faith when we give liberty to others to dress, cook, talk and behave differently than our expectations and still come to the table to learn of God.

A recent release from Pacific Press entitled The Curse relates the discouragement that a new Christian can experience when behavioral expectations outpace liberty.   The author-believer left the church for a number of years feeling that Christianity didn’t work because obedience to the rules didn’t give her the inward freedom she so desired.  Her reconversion was the work of years, years during which one might not have thought she looked or acted “Adventist”.

When we come to Christ here’s what we don’t sign up for.  To borrow on Patrick Henry’s words, it’s not:

Give me liberty and give me diet restrictions.

Give me liberty and give me dress codes.

Give me liberty and give me expectations.

Perhaps the bravest thing a group of Adventist believers can do is to welcome to the discussion those who differ.  Alexander Hamilton wrote, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” 

Can we bravely make the halls of our church so safe that any question is welcome?  We can be heroes in the hall of faith when we give liberty to others to dress, cook, talk and behave differently than our expectations and still come to the table to learn of God.  Surely the Spirit of God is at work in them also.  Did Jesus do any less?  

Happy Fourth! Go forth and be free!

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