A Story of Christian Liberty and Love

Our church is working through 1 Corinthians 8-9 in our teaching series.  These chapters deal with the issues of Christian liberty and love.  One of our pastors, Gary Butler, shared with me a very personal story from his own family’s process of applying liberty and love.  With his permission, I am sharing it with you below.

Gary has pastored for over 40 years and is a much loved pastor at Bethel.  His faith background was quite conservative and this story happened many years ago when contemporary Christian music was new and outside the comfort zone of Christians who were first exposed to it.  So read this story in its historical context.  The lessons of it are relevant today. 

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Obviously our journey as a family from very conservative and restrictive, to where we are today has been an incredible trip.

When we moved to Iowa, our oldest son became a member of the youth group.  Everyone was listening to contemporary Christian Music.  Everyone but my son.  So Bart arranged an appointment with his very conservative, staunchy dad at the local Christian Book Store.  I listened with head phones, so no one would see me listening to this “over-the-top” stuff.  I listened to several different samplings of the kind of things Bart wanted to listen to.  I finally firmly placed the headphones down on the counter and said, “Bart, I can’t approve any of this.”  Predictably, Bart was torked.  Furthermore, he was not all that generous with me at Christmas.  Nevertheless, with respect for all the good things we had going between us, we agreed not to discuss the issue any further.  Legalistic Christians don’t want to dialogue.

About 8 years later Brent, our younger son, approached me with a request to listen to a Stephen Curtis Chapman CD.   He approached me with the skill of an experienced diplomat.  He said, “Dad, I understand that you have for years held a very conservative view of Christian Music.  I’m fine with that and would fight for your right to stand anywhere you want as the head of this house.  Furthermore, I want you to be the man who makes the decision.  But, if it’s all the same to you, would you just explain to me why your conscience is violated by Stephen Curtis Chapman.” 

I stuttered and stammered around for several minutes and finally in the absence of any sound thought or rationale, I announced to Brent, “All right.  We’re going to conduct a test.  You can listen to Stephen Curtis Chapman for one week.  If at the end of the week your spiritual life has sustained itself, I will consider a change.”

At the end of the week Brent and I had a meeting.  Brent said, “Honestly Dad, I believe I am stronger in the Lord for listening to his music.”  He had literally worn out the CD.  That was the beginning of a major change at the Butler household.

But I knew I had a problem.  I needed to explain to Bart, before Brent got to him, concerning the radical change of Christian values at the Butler household.  I called him immediately.  The conversation went something like this.  “Look Bart, I have just made a radical change in what I am allowing my kids to listen to at our house.  We now listen to contemporary Christian music.  I was wrong with you.  Can you forgive me?  

It was quiet on the other end of the phone.  Finally, Bart responded. “Dad, you’re doing the right thing and I hold no malice against you.”

That Christmas we listened to contemporary Christian music and even watched Christian artists’ videos.  Bart said, “I can’t believe I’m actually at my own house.  It feels great.

A very beautiful change came into our house that year because of our growing view of Christian liberty.  That will always be a very sacred and treasured moment in relation to my boys.  And it’s all because of growth in Christian liberty.

© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction.

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