Faith Matters: Free to Serve

Pastor Shawn Hannon
Contributing Writer Pastor Shawn Hannon

The conversation around wearing a mask in these coronavirus times is a polarizing one, and this, ultimately, is not meant to be an article about wearing a mask. But I mention it at the start because what I do want to talk about is freedom. After all, we just celebrated July 4th.

Aside from the arguments about comfort and health concerns, one of the main grumbles folks have about wearing a mask is that it infringes upon their liberty. Like most of the government mandates and shutdowns, some people have resisted the orders on principles of freedom. What I hear as a pastor is “Can you believe they are telling us we can’t go to church?” (Side note: stop arguing or posting things about ‘going to church’ during the corona-craze if you don’t regularly support a community of believers with your time, talents, and presence regularly. But again, this isn’t about that. It’s about freedom, so back to it).

As Americans we have long held freedom to be one of our highest virtues and anything that threatens that has to go. We cherish our individual liberty. But as Christians, we must also ask, What is our freedom for? And as Americans we might presume our freedom means we get to do whatever we want, but as Christians that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The 5th chapter of Galatians addresses freedom. It starts with Paul (the author) boldly reminding the audience that “for freedom Christ has set us free” (5:1). He goes on a few verses later saying that we are “called to freedom,” but what comes next helps us understand what that freedom is for. Paul writes, “… only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another” (5:13).

And the takeaway for us is the reminder that scripture talks about freedom about as oppositely as possible from many of the arguments we make when we feel like our freedom is under attack. We are not free merely to do whatever we want. We are free—Christ has made us free—so that we can be slaves to one another. We often think of slavery as the exact opposite of freedom. But the Bible teaches us that the freedom we experience is meant to be a freedom to serve others not a freedom to indulge ourselves.

As we live into the freedom we celebrated last weekend, perhaps we would all do better to remember that. That true freedom is not meant to allow us to indulge ourselves, but to serve and to love one another.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.