By Howard K. Burgoyne
When I learned to write, I was taught what a margin is. In cursive it serves as a helpful boundary. It keeps letters from bleeding off the page. Margins help on the left and right.
When I reflect on the value of freedom in Christ, I remember the value of a wide page and a thoughtful margin. Like margins, freedom frames the space between the edges where curiosity and creativity explore revealed truth, and I can labor to build carefully upon the foundation that is Christ. Margins can keep me out of the gutter. This too is the gift of Covenant freedom. From the beginning, Covenanters emphasized freedom in Christ. This yielded the dividends of embracing diversity of thought in an essential unity of fellowship. In all of this they remained disciplined to prayerfully read the Scriptures and to seek out the mind of Christ.
Looking back on my spiritual journey, I see where this freedom provided me space to explore and grow, without a straitjacket, without branding me a heretic or requiring a transfer to a different tradition. The Covenant weaves rich sacramental, pietistic, and revivalist emphases together with Pentecostal, contemplative, and indigenous traditions. The Covenant values being ecumenical and evangelical together, not as political platforms but as spiritual practices. These adjectives qualify the inclusive welcome and mission priorities of the Covenant. They undergird our enduring commitment to obey the great commandments and the great commissions. Covenanters are called to a shared life in Christ Jesus and a shared mission empowered by the Holy Spirit.
The Covenant has continued to welcome, plant, and nurture diverse communities of faith, centered in Jesus Christ. The Covenant’s way of life is not a free-for-all but affirms freedom in Christ for all. In opposition to the gospel, the corrupt principalities and powers at work in the world aim to divide, then conquer. They conspire to control and consume from behind the scene. They too know that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).
Freedom in Christ is a wide page and a thoughtful margin. Covenant freedom affirms that it is Christ himself who is writing his royal law upon each of our hearts. And we continue to give him ample room to do so.
By Aisha Cox
My eyes were completely glued to the screen as I watched the commercial with childlike wonder. I envisioned myself finally being able to cook all kinds of yummy desserts for myself with minimal adult supervision. When my father asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I gave him my answer with no hesitation. The most memorable and desirable gift I received in my childhood was an Easy Bake Oven.
I am fully aware that the kids on The Great British Baking Show: Juniors would put me to shame today, but you couldn’t tell me anything back then. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of baking on my own—yet it was short-lived. I had several step-siblings that I was asked to share this gift with. I did not like this at all. My way of doing things was completely different from theirs, and it was a tension point I had to adjust to.
Before I knew anything about the Covenant Church, God gave me a lesson as a child on the reality of freedom. Freedom is less about me and more about “we.” Our freedom is experienced in right relationship with God and our neighbors. It is grounded in the other five affirmations and in Scripture.
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13).
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
The Covenant is unique in that we choose to focus on what unites us as followers of Jesus as opposed to what divides us. There is beauty in being able to differ theologically on topics that would typically cause division and to intentionally choose to focus on what unites us as followers of Christ. The gift so many of us greatly value is not ours to hoard, but one to offer in love to others.
It is within our right relationship with God and with others that we experience freedom. Culture teaches us that freedom is only about us, but a kingdom perspective reminds us that our freedom fuels the way we love our neighbor.
Receiving freedom is the easy part, but we also offer that same freedom to those who see things differently than we do. I celebrate this value of the Covenant and pray the great commandment to love emboldens us to live it out.