From Bondage to the Desert – How to Prepare for Freedom – 4

4. New Wineskins vs. New Wine

Personal story – For some time after my conversion, I was involved in dissident activities, fighting for religious freedom. In the name of the various Christian churches, we kept demanding that the communist authorities grant us free access to the media, freedom to train our own religious leaders without any interference, free access to all levels of education and many other similar things.

Such demands were absolutely legitimate when viewed in the light of democratic values. However, they were mere requests for ‘new wineskins’ which had little value if not also associated with the formation of a people who could use these freedoms effectively in ways that would bring honour to God.

A few decades later, when freedom came, we almost instantly obtained all the rights for which we had fought so earnestly. Unfortunately, we soon realised that we were not prepared for them and that we did not have the trained people who could make maximum use of these rights. Even today, we feel ashamed when we see the poor quality of Christian radio and TV programmes, the amateurish publications and the critical lack of modern Christian institutions in former communist countries.

In saying this we do not want to question in any way the necessity for ‘new wineskins’ (rights, structures, institutions) but rather to emphasise the priority of the ‘new wine’, a metaphor that here represents mature people who can make proper use of these structures.

Personal story – After a number of years of involvement in dissident political activities, I chose to give this up and instead to dedicate myself to Christian discipleship. Many of those who had been involved with me in political activities during communism were forced to leave the country and, although they have a better standard of living in the west, they are not now able to do much for their own country.

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Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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