As a ship before a reef is directed by a lighthouse, so must we find ourselves directed. Who we allow to do the directing is a matter of choice and faith.
This is, however, counter to the logic of advocates who aggressively serve an ideology of absolute freedom; who, in turn deny absolutes and inadvertently also deny freedom.
The outcome is the theft of freedom under the guise of promising freedom.
The few assert themselves as lords over the many because some form of direction is ultimately necessary for survival.[i] Necessary for freedom to remain freedom.
Accordingly, the act of being confronted by a lighthouse is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.
Following this logic, it’s an anachronistic social construct of a by-gone era.
Something to be denied its right to speak.
Something to be denied its right to confront us.
Something to be silenced by put-downs and ridiculed into submission.
Something that no longer has a right to exist or the freedom to shine?
That is until the unmovable brunt of a reef rips apart the hull and this charade of freedom-without-limitation is shattered upon its concealed jagged surface.
Unveiled, this hidden danger now leaves a trail of debris, terror, chaos and destruction in the wake of what is an observable and reasoned, natural intolerance.
The reef could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.
Consequently, the pride and cheering stop. The celebrity promotions, hype, progressive optimism, associated propaganda, ad hominem, and ticket tape parades are instead replaced by mourning, blame, loss and emptiness.
An unhealthy fear of offending or demands of compensation for being offended by the offensive posturing of the lighthouse no longer matter. All that was has been sacrificed to the abyss. Behind the veil of universal niceness, true freedom is regrettably lost.
Like most ships, who on seeing the warm and graceful signal fires of a steadfast lighthouse, do not stay ignorant; or choose to remain on its own wilful course. So it is, that although an ‘educator may teach a child, the student must take pains to get an education. There is a difference between merit and means. There is moreover a difference between cause and effect…Wisdom’s dole is dispensed at wisdom’s gate’ [ii]
Or, in the brilliant words of the late Dallas Willard,
‘grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.’ [iii]
Karl Barth might meet this with a resounding, “yes! this is our response to God because He loves in freedom; chooses to be responsibly involved.” He grants us permission to know what He expects of us. We are not abandoned to fallible perilous assumptions. We are not left alone, having to choose between what is the equivalent of Scylla and Charybdis.
God is free. In His freedom he acts. In His love we hear His “yes and no” spoken for our benefit. Not because we deserved it, but because it is God’s will-to-rescue us from a corrupted will-to-power; He directs us towards Himself.
Our response, (our effort?) then, is to be one of ‘prayer and gratitude’; or as Barth simply puts it, ‘grateful obedience.'[iv]
For him this is because ‘the truth of humanity, [in our being confronted by grace; Jesus Christ] is that we are directed towards God.’ [v]
Spurgeon, himself, appears to have grasped this, stating:
‘There is no merit in seeking the Lord; but we may not hope to find him without it. The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled, yet the cup does not create the water or purchase it’ [vi]
A summary of this might be as simple as saying that grace affords our gratitude.
In the end perhaps, Abigail Adams says it best:
‘I wish our gratitude may be in manner and way, proportionate to our benefit.’ [vii]
Which in turn means:
‘blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)
[i] My tentative conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘therefore, absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)
[ii] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Electronic Ed. p.78
[iii] Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Monarch Books, United Kingdom
[iv] Barth, K. 1940, The Limits of The Knowledge of God CD. II/1 p.218-229 Hendrickson Publishers, T& T Clark Ltd, 1957
[v] ibid, p.121
[vi] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden, Electronic Ed. p.78
[vii] Adams, J & A. The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #81, 10th December 1775