Excessive Liberation is Slavery

We live in an age of liberty. Everyone wants to throw off the shackles – without even thinking too much about what they are there for. The pulse of our culture is beats with the demand to be able to do our own thing, as and when we feel the impulse to do so.

There are many images and messages that support the notion of throwing off other people’s constraints upon us. In Ratatouille we have a rat wanting to escape the cultural abhorrence toward his kind and the disgusting cultural values of his family. Fights against oppression, determination to rise above family limitations, and such sentiments are common fare.

What brought me to this topic, however, was that I was reflecting today on one of the many stories which carry this theme and I saw something I had not noted before. The story is outdated now. It is the Australian made movie, Strictly Ballroom. As I recall the story (and it’s been several years since I last saw it) a particular ballroom dancing competition has become the life focus of a group of young people.

The central character of the story is a young man whose own father was once a successful competitor in the competition but who somehow damaged his career by going outside the limitations set by the competition. Everyone is now quite intent on meeting the strict requirements, except this young man who, like his father, has a penchant for free expression.

The climax involves the boy stepping outside the prescribed rules and creating something that expresses who and what he is. The whole competition shuts down as a consequence, until the boy’s father steps up to support his son’s individualistic expressions. The story ends with a triumphant liberation of the people from the rigidity of the competitions controller.

The sub-text speaks of each person’s need to find who they are and to be brave enough to step out for the liberation which they should be able to claim. Like many other packagings of the same theme, the subtext is to be the individual that we each are.

But here’s the rub. Some constraints are not the product of egocentric control freaks. Not all things that limit us and make performance demands on us are evil, self-serving structures designed by others and which oppress and limit our self-expression.

Liberation from oppression is one thing, but liberation from godly morality, responsibility and the like is a completely different proposition. The current popular cultural theme of self-expression, self-discovery and self-assertion is not anchored in the fear of God as it needs to be. It does not respect our need to be who God has made us and to face the limitations which He has placed on us.

The Bible supports our personal liberty through Christ. We are even told to hold on to our liberty from sin and degradation. We have been called to liberty, Paul tells us (Galatians 5:1). However, Paul also warns us not to use liberty as an excuse for indulging our fleshly desires (Galatians 5:13).

What is being promoted in our culture is a notion of liberty without bounds. Liberty for liberty’s sake has become the value proposition, rather than liberty within the bounds of God’s holy purposes in our lives. We are to stand firm in the liberty which Christ has purchased for us, but not to be brought into slavery by our inappropriate application of liberty. Hence my title “Excessive Liberation is Slavery”.

When people pursue personal freedom as an end in itself they end up applying that freedom to their own self-serving ends. That then brings them into slavery to sin, shame and degradation. They become slaves to the things they indulge in. Their liberty has led them to slavery and they are not free at all.

Stand fast in the liberty in which Christ has made you free – but be not entangled again in slavery.

Hurt Spirits Picnic

How would it be if a bunch of smelly, spiteful, murderous and hateful creatures were having a picnic on your lounge-room floor? How would it be if a bunch of ‘hurt spirits’ regularly turned your home into their picnic ground? Well, that’s what a lot of marriages allow to happen.

I talked before about how Hurt Spirits work in marriages (see: Hurt Spirits Working). The spirit stirs up hurt feelings in one or other of the spouses, prompting them to act out of that hurt. The spouse may be prompted to pout, withdraw, accuse, manipulate, contend, be angry or whatever. As soon as the ‘hurt’ spouse begins to behave like that, especially out of their own hurt feelings, their actions cause hurt in the other spouse. Thus the cycle of hurt is ignited and the relationship is set on a course of destruction and pain.

I believe that this process is epidemic in marriages today and most couples, including Christian couples who should know better, get caught in this ‘device’ of the enemy. We are not supposed to be ignorant concerning the enemy’s devices, but this one seems to have slipped in and caught many couples in the trap of celebrating their pain.

What the hurt spirits want to do is to move in to your home and host picnics in your kitchen, lounge-room, bedrooms and so on. They want to turn your home into a pain-filled picnic-ground where hurt spirits feel completely at home and can celebrate their evil influence over your marriage. The Hurt Spirits want to picnic at your place.

So, let me unpack for you what is really going on. The hurt spirits want to enshrine ‘hurt’ and hurt feelings as the top priority in the home. In a culture that is selfish and self-centred, that is easier than it would be in a godly culture. So, as the West becomes increasingly selfish, hurt spirits have a much easier time picking off the easy targets. There are more hurt spirit picnics these days than at times in the past.

Hurt spirits want to make ‘hurt’ the central theme of your home. So these spirits arouse feelings of hurt in marriages. They remind people that they are being neglected, misunderstood or offended. They point out that their spouse is not being what they wanted them to be. They stir up feelings of offence, frustration, disappointment and so on. As soon as a person buys into the hurt the next stage is to accentuate it until it becomes a central issue for that person, not just a passing feeling.

As the couples begin to fight with each other and hurt each other the stage is set for the home to be polarised by hurt feelings. The couple may withdraw from each other, only heightening the feelings of hurt they each carry. They may play ‘no speaks’, or one or other may become demanding, contentious, angry, resentful, or the like. Before long the unresolved hurt feelings have become king in the home.

No progress seems possible until the huge burden of hurt can be dealt with. Yet the mountain of hurt feelings is SO enormous that it would take a giant person to be able to wade through it all. The marriage may end up just limping on, with both spouses making the most of the good moments and battening down for the stormy times.

Both husband and wife will desperately want their marriage healed, but the hurt spirit will continue to stoke the fires of hurt, frustration, offence, etc, to ensure that the barrier between the couple remains firm.

Now, that’s the enemy’s strategy. Would you like to know the solution? I think it’s remarkably simple and delightfully do-able.

First step toward breaking this cursed cycle is to recognise that it is going on. I explained to a couple recently that their problem is the action of a hurt spirit and they were able to make gains in their relationship from that very night. So, this article needs to be passed on to as many people as you can get it to, so couples recognise what they are really dealing with. For some, that very realisation will be liberating and allow them to move toward forgiveness and healing.

The second step is to dethrone the hurt. Hurt and hurt feelings are not meant to picnic in your home. They are not meant to be on the throne in your heart. They are not meant to have any place in your home or heart at all. If you keep them on the throne, demanding that they be placated, you will stay in slavery to their destructive work.

Much more worthy and noble things should be on the throne in your home and heart. Righteousness and the fear of God should be exalted in your home, not hurt feelings. Humility, submission, grace, love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, hope and joy are much more worthy things for centre stage than hurt can ever be.

As you dethrone hurt you now need to push past it, knocking it to the ground and walking all over it. When a hurt spirit jumps up and says, “You should despise your spouse”, knock that thing to the ground as you step toward your spouse and fulfil your godly calling in their life.

Husbands, press in to love your wife, while she is throwing hurt into your face. Wives, press in to submit to your husband while he is hurling hurt into your heart. Determine that you will be who God has created you to be and you will serve Him, not some dirty demon.

Don’t let the demons picnic at your place. When the hurt spirits turn up with their picnic basket, throw them out. And fall on your knees to worship the true and living God, not some filthy demon who hates you and your marriage. Don’t give in to their goading and their fear-filled stories of what will become of you if you don’t stand up for your rights and fight your spouse. Reject their taunts and the aroused emotions of your heart.

Be who God has made you to be and do what He wants you to do, whether you have hurt feelings or a heart of joy. As soon as you change course to accommodate hurt feelings you have elevated hurt above God and allowed the hurt spirits in with their picnic baskets. If you purpose to do what God asks you do to, no matter whether it is easy or hard or whether you are filled with joy or struggling with pain, you have dedicated your heart and home to God, and fortified it against evil spirits.

It is time to withstand the enemy’s scheme. It is time to resist him to his face. It is time to fight the demons, not our spouse. It is time to so worship God that we do what He asks us to do, despite the hurt feelings our situation prompts within us. Cast your care onto Him, don’t take arms against your spouse.

And let us celebrate the glorious liberty which God gives us as His children. Don’t let that bully who hates you have any place in your heart, home or marriage.

“Lord God, we ask You to empower us with wisdom and insight, to see the enemy’s hand at work and to resist him with all the authority of heaven. Lord, forgive us for elevating hurt feelings when You ask us to elevate forgiveness. Forgive us for fighting with our spouse, instead of fighting with the enemy. Forgive us for pressing on in our own strength, instead of working in Your power. Now, come and deliver us from all evil we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”