Thursday, July 21, 2011

Free to Live and Love

I admit. I have been brought up in an environment that if one does not work, one shall not eat. The works-based philosophy of life has permeated so many cultures and societies such that it wears people down. Each vacation requires another vacation. Each coffee break makes us long for another one. Each leisure hour makes us yearn for more leisure hours. Working for one's wages has crept into our emotions as well. If one does not justify oneself adequately, one remains unjustified, in a world that appears to operate one default mode: "Undeserving unless proven otherwise."

If the waiters/waitresses fail to meet our minimal expectations, our minimal tip amount drops drastically. If the politicians fail to dish out what they have promised each end of the financial year, we threaten to vote them out of office. If we do not work hard enough to prepare for our school exams, we will fail to make the grade. Such a default lifestyle hems us into being miserly with our money, and stingy with our praises. Unless we produce results, our culture punishes accordingly. So conditional is such a lifestyle, that even for Christians, we have introduced this concept into our spiritual lives, making God into our own image. Desmond Tutu says it well.

"We too often feel that God's love for us is conditional like our love is for others. We have made God in our image rather than seeing ourselves in God's image. . . Ours is a culture of achievement, and we carry over these attitudes to our relationship with God. We work ourselves to a frazzle trying to impress everyone including God. . . We can believe that our relationship with God, our standing before God, has got nothing to do with our performance, our works." (Desmond Tutu, God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Times, NY: Image Doubleday, 2004, p32)

We need to be free to live and free to love. Such freedom is liberating. It makes one work not out of obligation, but out of liberation. Whatever work we choose to do, let us do it out of gratitude that we have the opportunity to do it in the first place. Let us give thanks to God, for the ability to work it. Let us be thankful that we can play a role in societies wherever we are in. Take a leaf from Paul's words to the Ephesians.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Col 3:23)

This we do, with a grateful heart freed to live, and to love. This is because the grace of God has freed us.


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