17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17–18 NKJV)
Two thoughts keep racing around my mind – liberty and recovery. Liberty is the King James word for freedom. One can’t help but think about the inscription on the Statue of Liberty,
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. – Emma Lazarus
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Daily, I want to watch people learn to breath free.
The second thought that keeps rolling around is the idea of recovery. Most of our “huddled masses” and “tempest tossed” are in recovery. Primarily they are recovering from things like alcohol, drugs and co-dependency. However, this isn’t the sense in which I am thinking of recovery. I’m thinking of bigger picture recovery. We are all recovering from sin and recovering to the image of God.
How do these two things go together? I think we find liberty in recovering the image of God. Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, then you are free indeed.” (John 8:36) Here are some thoughts on how I think we get there:
We must insist on acting like repentant sinners. No more pretending that we don’t have problems. No more pretending like we are merely sinners saved by grace. We are repentant sinners and that means we are new creations living new lives with changed hearts. We must learn to love, accept and forgive.
Yet many of us think something is to be gained from the church apart from learning to acknowledge our sinfulness and our utter dependence upon God. To the extent that the church legitimates this error – by offering, instead, social capital, childcare, entertainment, family time, and so on – the church is accountable for its failure to provide hospitality, sustenance and redemption to the addicted person in its midst. (Addiction and Virtue, 187)
We apprentice ourselves to Jesus and to another disciple. There is no way on earth that we are going to learn to live the recovered life alone. In fact, our track records prove the opposite. Al we know is how to mar the image of God. We need others to show us the way; to show us what it looks like to follow Jesus. Every follower of Jesus must take it upon himself or herself to find someone to apprentice and someone who can apprentice them.
We must devote ourselves to one another. There are no short cuts here. Jesus spent three years in ministry and discipleship development. During that time he is only alone for a few brief scenes as he wanders off early in the morning for prayer. Every other scene of his life includes the disciples. Recovering the image of God requires lots of shared time and shared space.
If the church is to be a place where […] persons may find redeeming fellowship, it will have to become a primary social hub. It must facilitate and expect of its members friendships that are rooted in the day-to-day sharing or ordinary activities. … it must provide daily, rather than once-weekly opportunities for communal worship, testimony and prayer, and it must challenge its parishioners to treat the church as their primary social community. (Addiction and Virtue, 191)
I want to be part of a church that takes the tired and helps them camp in the Almighty’s shade, the poor and see they discover Jesus’ worth, the huddled masses yearning to breath free and give them fresh hope, the wretched refuse and clothe them in the righteousness of Jesus, the homeless and help them find refuge in the Most High’s shelter, and the tempest tossed and see that they meet the one who can calm the storms. I want to be part of that kind of church.