Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (liberty) (II Corinthians: 3:17)
So much of the blogosphere has been cluttered this week criticizing Donald Trump for a failure to use the proper biblical citation when quoting from II Corinthians 3:17. When he cited the verse, he said “Two Corinthians” instead of the usually heard “Second Corinthians”.
Apparently, this is major news and an important reason why “The Donald” is not fit to serve as President of the United States.
A former professor of mine, Dr. Greg Carey at Lancaster Seminary, actually affirmed the propriety of Trump’s citation, and recently posted this on Facebook:
“What we should be doing is articulating how perverse is his understanding of what Paul means by freedom.”
For Trump and his followers, many of them who identify themselves as Christians, the concept of freedom has been corrupted by an ethic of individual entitlement disguised as liberty. Entitlements which include the individual’s right to accumulate and hoard wealth without regard for the poor; the right to own an arsenal of assault weapons without any serious government regulations to protect the public at large; the right to deny others the individual rights and protections they have, simply because those others have journeyed to our country at great peril to live a little better life; the right to spew hate and promise destruction to other countries in the name of national defense.
I don’t think this is what St. Paul had in mind when he wrote about life in the Spirit. In fact I know it is not.
Life in the Spirit is a life lived in the spirit of community, not the spirit of individualism. The community of the spirit values each individual as a loved child of God, and in this we find our freedom to be individuals, each of whom have gifts, blessings and talents, not to keep to themselves, but to use for the common good of all. Christian freedom or liberty is not something to be grasped, stored or protected, but only remains liberty in it being shared with others, for their sake and not our own.
To paraphrase a famous theological paradox from Martin Luther, the Christian is free as a subject to no one, to be a servant to everyone.
So next time Trump thumps the Bible at us, we should take a deeper look at what he is saying…for the common good.
Question for Conversation: If Americans claim to be free citizens of a Christian nation, then what does that really mean? Share your thoughts!
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.