We met yesterday in our home with a couple of other families. We discussed scripture together, sang songs together, prayed together, encouraged one another, and challenged one another. After an hour or so in the living room, we all moved into the kitchen to celebrate the Lord's Supper. We partook of it as a full meal, remembering what Christ has done for us. As we ate, we continued to discuss a wide range of topics.
As I think back on yesterday's gathering, one aspect that strikes me was the freedom we all had in our discussions. Everyone was allowed to speak. No one was limited by age, education, position, status, occupation, knowledge, or even time. No one person was in any way elevated above anyone else. We were all free to build up the body through our words.
As we began, I turned to I Cor. 14:26 to make the point that all things needed to be said for the purposes of the building up of the body. This was the overriding principle for speech: everything said was to be done for edification.
This provided us all with a freedom that was exhilarating. Right there in the middle of the church gathering we could say anything the Holy Spirit had led us to say - as long as it built up others. This restriction has a scintillating effect: it causes those speaking to always look to the good of others instead of themselves.
Freedom in speech forces people to come out of their comfort zones. Those who would talk a lot (like me) need to learn to talk less. Those who are naturally shyer need to try to speak up. This freedom carries a responsibility to be actively involved. The body needs each member to contribute. I suppose this is why Paul says in 14:26 that "each has a hymn..."
So there is freedom and there isn't. There isn't in that we are not allowed to say just whatever might pop into our heads. This would probably lead to self-centeredness, blabbing, or chaos. We must only speak what will build up others. On the other hand, there are no man-made restrictions placed on speaking; each one is free to speak at any time. No one person or small group of people does most of the talking.
I noticed something else related to all this. During the discussion, we all had to exercise self-control. Or, better yet, Spirit-control. We all know that impulsivity of speech can lead to big problems in life. This is certainly true in church fellowships. Therefore, we must continually ask ourselves what the motives are behind whatever comes out of our mouths.
For our family the learning experience continues. I love to speak during gatherings, but even more I love to hear others speak. It is wonderful to mutually build one another up through words of grace proclaimed in the gathering.
I'm happy for freedom to speak. I'm happy for freedom to listen.
I'm happy for restriction for the purposes of edification.