I have seen some discussion on the role of spiritual gifts in the emerging church, and I will watch with interest as that conversation develops. However, I would like to address what I see as an even greater role for the work of the Holy Spirit among those who are emerging.
It is my opinion that people involved in the church that is emerging trust the Holy Spirit's ability to transform the character of a believer. Rather than a fearful control to legislate behavior among believers, I have seen faith in the Spirit of Christ to produce true transformation of the heart.
Living with this kind of trust in the Holy Spirit's ability requires a suspension of judgment and criticism about what we see as failures and immaturities in the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters.
In some ways, it is very reminiscent of the old law versus grace debate, with one side (EC) resisting being putting under law and the other side claiming grace is being abused.
At emergent what the debate is over the issue of swearing. But it really doesn't matter what the topic is, the underlying argument is law versus grace. One side seems to feel that if we would simply define the topic as sinful, the matter would be settled.
But then we have resorted to legislating behavior.
The little boy next door told my girls that wearing jeans is sinful. Aware that wearing pants is contrary to my neighbors' beliefs, what am I supposed to do? Shall I apply their law to my behavior?
Recently, I have been more convicted about consumerism and materialism. Should I apply my conviction to others?
Personally, I think I better mind my own business. Keeping my own heart on track seems to be enough of a task without trying to check up on everyone else.
Whatever the background, most of us have experienced the pressure towards conformity that actually circumvents the process of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Transformation is a process that takes time, can be messy, and doesn't always proceed according to social priorities.
Freedom in Christ sounds so scary, so out of control. Surely someone will take advantage, someone will get hurt.
To trust that this could work requires some assumptions. First, we must assume that the other person is a Christian. Next, we must believe that it is their desire to obey God. Finally, we must believe that the Holy Spirit is able to bring conviction to a believer's heart.
Let's take the training wheels off and allow people to experience the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in their life.