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The Meaning of Spiritual Freedom

By Clay Clarkson
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #36, 2000.

The real meaning.

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Clay and Sally Clarkson

Our culture is awash in being "spiritual." To New Agers, it means seeking the inner god. To the pagan, it means worshipping nature. To the activist, it means doing good. To the average person, it means being good. To the immature Christian, it means going to church. To the mature Christian, it means living by the Spirit (right answer!).

The idea of being spiritual has been so stretched and flattened out that it no longer means what we know it means. It has lost its meaning for our culture. To ensure that "freedom" does not go the same path as "spiritual," we need to use it in a way that will have meaning because we know what it really means.

As Christian homeschooling parents, most of us tend to define freedom in terms of our cultural experience. We tend to speak either of the "freedom to" homeschool, or the "freedom from" public school. In choosing those arenas for discussing freedom, though, we have let the culture define the terms of the debate. When discussed only in those areas, the concept of homeschooling freedom is defined by a policy option, or a legal issue, or a personal right.

The historical definition of freedom has always carried the notion of not being enslaved to another person, entity or government. And certainly, that is an important aspect of our freedom as homeschoolers. But freedom has deeper roots - spiritual roots - and it's these we should reflect in our use of the term freedom. If we truly understand Christ's teachings, we are not reaching only for "freedom to" or "freedom from," but "freedom in."

I went to the University of Texas in Austin. Carved in stone on one of the original main buildings are the words, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The average student would understand that statement to mean that truth (that is, the school's teachings) would set them free from ignorance. And yet, even if they are not completely ignorant of the source of the words (although most are), they are almost certainly ignorant of their full biblical context, or that they are reading only a fragment of Jesus' words.

What they aren't told is what gives the words their true meaning. "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." In other words, the truth that would bring freedom is not some educational construct or ideal, but a spiritual one. True freedom requires that you "continue" in God's word. Another reading would be that you "live" in it. It is only the disciple of Jesus who "lives" in the word who is ever truly free.

Here's the point. If we suggest that true freedom in homeschooling is primarily defined by "freedom to" and "freedom from," we are like that university building with the words carved in stone. We sound good, but we leave others ignorant of the words carved in the spirit. We fail to communicate that true freedom is found only in becoming a disciple of Jesus, the One who able to set you free.

True freedom in homeschooling is not just about educational alternatives - it's about spiritual priorities. It is about being a disciple. It is about "living in the word." It is about bringing our children into that relationship. It is about helping them find the freedom of Christ, and the truth of his word that will make them free. It is about leading others to understand that freedom. If it's only about "freedom to" and "freedom from," it's a fragmented picture.

The world is used to seeing movements and concepts competing for their place in the culture. Homeschooling to them is just another piece in the box of fragments we call American culture. If we look at the mess in the box, it seems like such a waste - all the time, energy, and resources poured into trying to sort out a jumble of pieces. We have the opportunity, though, to show that homeschooling is not just one of the many fragments competing for a place in that box. We can show that Christian homeschooling has an integrity that sets it apart - that it is complete and whole amidst the jumbled fragments of culture.

I want my family to show the "nothing-wasted integrity and completeness of a work of art" that is so rare today. When others examine what we do, how we do it, and why we do it, I want them to see that we're not just seeking freedom to exercise our personal rights, or seeking freedom from the failed system of public education. I want others to see that we are seeking freedom in Christ - to become his disciples as a family, to live in his word, and to offer that freedom to others.

I want them to look at our lives as they would look at a work of art, admiring its integrity, sensing its beauty, studying what makes the painting a whole piece, and taking pleasure in what they see. To me, that would be the true fruitfulness of freedom in Christ lived out in our family. That they would know that we are his disciples because we are set free by his truth, and that they would be drawn to want that same freedom.

"We need spirituality to direct our freedom and make it fruitful." Yes, but only if we understand spirituality and freedom. We need to regain the spiritual dimension of our homeschooling, not just in words that look good carved in stone, but in lives that reflect the reality of Christ. That is the true "spiritual freedom" that defines and unifies all others.

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