Stringfellow on our freedom from the fear of death

In Free in Obedience William Stringfellow writes:

...Christians are free to enter into the depths of the world's existence with nothing to offer the world but their own lives. And that is to be taken literally. What the Christian has to give to the world is his very life. He is established in such an extreme freedom by the power of Christ, which is so much greater than the power of death, that the Christian lives secure from any threats which death may make.

It is in exercising this ultimate freedom in his involvement in the world that the Christian also understands how to use whatever else is at his disposal--money, status, technical abilities, professional training, or whatever else--as sacraments of the gift of his own life. The daily witness of the Christian in the world is essentially sacramental, rather than moralistic. The public witness of the Christian is a symbol and communication of his death in Christ every day in each situation in which he finds himself. He thereby demonstrates his faith in God's triumph over death in Christ. The ethics of witness to redemption are sacramental ethics of grace, rather than of prudence or of law.

But such witness with respect to the world means involvement, not indifference; realism, not withdrawal; knowledge, not ignorance. The Christian is free enough both from his own death and from the reign of death in the world to realize and recognize the signs of death in the world: narcotics, slums, racism, unemployablity, disease, or the oppression of men by the principalities of commerce, patriotism, sports, communications media, and ideologies. And the Christian is free to enter into the midst of all or any of these ordinary realities of the world's existence, knowing what they truly represent, without succumbing either to their lust for idolatry or the fear of the work of death of which they are evidence. The Christian is so empirically free from the threat of death in his own life and in the existence of the rest of the world that he can afford to place that life at the disposal of the world or of anybody in the world without asking or expecting anything whatever in return.


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