“Don’t Tread on Me.” Those words are at the heart of the American spirit. We are rugged individualists with our own ideas of how to live our lives and pursue happiness. We’re proud, we’re bold, we’re arrogant. Yeah, I said it, we’re arrogant. However, my post is not about Americans, but American Christians, more specifically those in the fellowship known as the Churches of Christ (because that’s my affiliation, but I know this attitude is hardly only ours). We are a church that has embraced, to our detriment, this same “Don’t Tread on Me” spirit, which makes us good Americans, but is in conflict with Christ’s will for His people.
Whether it is the ever current discussion in the church about instrumental music and women’s roles, or smaller issues like the style of songs in our corporate worship, this attitude is all too present. It is on both sides of every issue, too. One side says, “I’ve got a conscience issue,” while the other declares, “You can’t take my liberty!” And the fight goes on, fueled often by no more noble thing than selfishness, stoked by pride and a “Don’t Tread on Me” typical American, hardly Christian, mindset.
So maybe we have restored New Testament Christianity after all. We have all the struggles and weaknesses that every church–Rome, Ephesus, Colosse, Philippi, and even Corinth–had. And we need the same call back to humility, service, love, unity and repentance they did. We need an old fashioned flag burning (sorry if that steps on your American Evangelical toes…maybe). We need to let that attitude die. It’s great for building a revolutionary mindset. It’s destructive to building a community of Christ.
“Some of us are emerging from a sort of slavery, a slavery of the spirit. It is slavery self-imposed, of course, one that emerges from fear or well-intentioned ideals, from cultural heritage or the firm grip of Certainty, but it is slavery nonetheless. Though we may live in ways that blind us to our own bondage, we still need to escape slavery’s power. Freedom is what we seek, not merely liberty. The idea of liberty comes from the Latin roots suggesting release from bondage, in other words, separation. the word freedom, on the other hand, has different origins. It comes from a Northern European word group associated with friendship. to be free is not so much to be released, but to be connected. To be free is not simply to be liberated from something, but it is to be joined to community, to be friends. For Christians, freedom is not doing whatever we want, devoid of responsibility or consequences. Rather, we are free to be in Christ, to be in relationship, to live in forgiveness. We have been liberated from the principle of lawkeeping and from sin, of course. But we have also been freed to serve our neighbor, to love our enemies, to take care of the widows, to provide for the poor. To be free is to belong to a community. It is to be in relationship.
–Jack Reese, The Body Broken, p. 178-179