Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Liberty of Obedience

I recently found a small copy of an Elisabeth Elliot book that I had never heard of (that's a rarity!) at a church give-away and it quickly became one of my favorites. The Liberty of Obedience is a reflection of Mrs. Elliot's contemplation of the meaning and application of the gospel to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. She reflects on the difficulty of bringing the gospel to another people in truth and in love without confining the gospel to its Western interpretation of application.

For instance, Elliot writes, "In my country we hold certain standards of dress to be acceptable, but a costume that would have landed its wearer in jail one year might be common on the streets of a city the next. The Aucas were unhampered by clothing (or by washing, sewing, mending, or ironing) and the caprices of fashion, but stuck firmly to a code of modesty that did not change with the seasons... In their nakedness they accepted themselves and one another for what they were, always abiding by the rules: men and women did not bathe together, women taught their daughters how to sit and stand with modesty, men taught their sons how to wear the string which was their only adornment." Some of her very worthwhile reflections upon the journey of living among the Aucas are copied below.

We shall answer for our actions. Were they good or evil? We cannot answer for others' opinions of our actions. An act should be done not for the sake of the reputation it will gain or destroy for a man, but because it is right. If it appears wrong to some, this is only fresh proof of the impossibility of looking on the heart. This is God's prerogative.

Decisions must be made in the integrity of the heart before God - with an unselfish attention to our brother's good and the glory of God.

We may not say now that we have the answers. Questions of how to conduct oneself as a Christian, or how to serve as a Christian, must be answered by life itself - the life of the individual in his direct, responsible relationship to God. This is a dynamic, never a static, thing. And how can we speak at all of the true meaning of conduct and service if we do not speak first and last of love? For it is love which sums up all other commandments. The one who loves knows better than anyone else how to conduct himself, how to serve the ones he loves. Love prescribes an answer in a given situation as no mere rule can do.