Freedom and the Good Place

Presented at Dayspring Church 10/23

Have you ever noticed how people use the term, “Good Place?”  They say, “She’s not in a very good place right now.”  Or, “The last time you saw me I wasn’t in a very good place.”  Or more positively, “I’m in a pretty good place right now.  But what does that actually mean? What does it mean to be in a good place? And be careful—because how you answer this question says a lot about what you value and what and who your god really is.

When we say “I’m in a good place” financially, we usually mean that we have the freedom to begin to doing more of what we want. When we say that we are “In a good place” physically, we usually mean that our bodies are doing okay and that we are free to do whatever it is that we want to do without much limitation. When we say that we are “In a good place” emotionally, it usually means that we are not in turmoil or drama–that the bandwidth of our mind isn’t being chewed up by negative feelings of sadness or unhappiness and thus we are free to move forward.

The operative word is freedom.  Being in a good place means that we are free to do what we want.  But look around are we actually free?  Oh, here we go! Do we really have free will or not?

I think a case can be made both ways.  We all can argue that things happen to us that we don’t want to happen to us. We can point out that our health can fail, our finances can reverse, our loved ones die—none of which were the result of our free will.

But we also know that we can make choices—to a point—and that would seem to indicate that we have some free will.  But what does the bible say?

Romans 6 would seem to indicate that we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Those who are slaves to sin cannot free themselves from it, except through Christ. So the answer to the question of free will is not an either or—but both.  We aren’t running the show—we are so not in control, but we are allowed enough choice in enough things that matter.  But for most people, even that choice is not available because they are enslaved by sin.  If you are a slave to sin, your free will choices are very small.  But what does it mean to be a slave to sin?

It means that we don’t even have a clue about how tied in we are to the thinking of this world. Look around you! I ask you, do we live in an enlightened society? We live in a society that chases little pieces of paper—and people will do anything to have more of it because they believe they can get to the Good Place if they have lots of things that only money can buy.  We live in societies that promote war and violence—both home and abroad–often claiming that we are doing it for peace. We judge men by the money and by the authority they hold to make decisions over others. We live in a culture that objectifies women by judging them according to arbitrary standards of beauty.   And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!  We glorify anger, incivility, and revel in sensuality. We don’t even notice the hungry and homeless around us—unless they trouble us on the streets—then we pass laws that criminalize them.  We live in a society that does not have the collective will to use its resources to outlaw hunger–in even one of our communities–much less see to it that everyone who wants it can have simple decent housing.  We imprison more people than any nation in the world. All of these things we have come to think of as normal. This cultural norm, this insanity—and all that goes with it—this is the bondage of sin that Paul is talking about.  And it is very deeply ingrained in each of us—and we are doomed unless something external to us changes us.

But then, we find Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit begins to indwell within us.  And we begin to notice what Christ said and did when he was among us on earth and we compared it to our own lives as well as the world around us. And as we read his sermon on the mount and we notice that we too have some choices to make if we want to follow him.

Will we be like Jesus and make a choice to stand for the poor and those that have no voice–knowing that doing so is going to stir things up?  Are we, like Jesus willing to speak out against the religious thinking of the day when it does violence to others?  Yes, we should never doubt that making a stand against all forms of human violence, whether it be physical, emotional, religious will make people around us look at us differently—but that is where we find your freedom. For the freedom I’m speaking of is a spiritual awakening that allows us to awaken and maybe for the first time, comprehend the insanity of our culture along with its cruel systems of control. Your freedom and my freedom is finally realizing just how far gone the world is and making the decision to let the world go its own way while we go in a different way as a follower of Christ.

Our freedom is a lifelong process for us.   We have been so compromised by our families, of schools, our culture, our country—even our religions–that Jesus can hardly get through to us. But the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom for new choices that allow us to escape the slavery of this world.  We become free and in that freedom, we find our good place.  You see, the good place was never about whether or not we make it to a perfect environment where everything we ever dreamed of is supplied, its allowing the Holy Spirit to do its work of waking us up so that we might opt out of a corrupt system that once enslaved us as well as everyone else.