Don’t trespass when the sign says so. Ask before you enter. A yield sign gives you permission to move on when the way is clear. On many an occasion, Grażyna appears to be the guardian of propriety when I behave like a paparazzi. “Ask if you can take that picture,” she instructs me, “and even better, why take it?”
If you are a driver, you give yourself permission to go from A to Z. However, the road is guarded by restrictions such as speed limit, a stop sign or a red light. If a road sign says senso unico (I love the Italian sound of “one way”), you do not enter. If you risk going against the obvious, there will be a consequence.
One time in Lincoln, Nebraska, I was showing off my knowledge of the town to a friend, driving on autopilot. When driving without noting the signs or street names, one can turn into a senso unico street and a discotheque light appears within seconds behind you. Little traffic on the road and a slow speed allowed me to do it, but even the officer could not give me permission to break the law.
She was extremely polite and kind. “Sir, I suggest you carefully turn around, and I will help you do it,” she said, then added, “Enjoy the city.” There was even a smile, I noted, as we moved on.
There are situations when you need to ponder whether someone is in charge and if you need to get an okay to move on. Writers, artists, photographers, and musicians care about the copyright on their creative work. Permission is needed to reproduce the original work, especially important if your livelihood depends on having your work used. But years will pass and even your creativity can become a public free-for-all, used without permission.
In an era of social media, liberties to someone’s image and creativity are all over the place. We just shoot pictures and post them, copy and paste and we think that we have permission to do it. Whose permission? Our own, of course! Much of it is perfectly fine, but ...
You do not need permission to be yourself. No permission is needed to exercise the freedoms you are endowed with -– to influence others, to say yes or no, to be kind, compassionate and caring. No need to have permission to reject becoming an ersatz of the real person you already are or a copy of another influencer. You do not need permission to share your thinking and debate issues.
Let me admit that Japhet De Oliveira, my pastor from Boulder, has become more than a brother. He is also a “challenger in chief.” He has a way of reaching out to the congregation, not as a group only, but individually, by pointing to The Word and making my Christian experience seriously focus on what it means to follow Jesus.
Recently, he re-introduced me to the Book of Acts, a journal of the first years of a fledgling Christian church of the first century A.D. Reading and studying this amazing diary puts me in touch with the amazing acts of God, proving that to follow Jesus is a serious matter.
To encourage a serious reading of Acts, he sends out a daily reading devotional, Daily Walk [see: www.boulder.church], which is used as a daily primer for a sermon, which is preached on Saturday, the Sabbath. In our home we are reading it daily first thing in the morning.
A few days ago, Japhet commented on a permission that is not really required. What existed in the first century continues as a foundation of the Christian church’s mission today.
Japhet tells of an encounter he had: “He stopped me in the corridor of the office and asked who gave me permission,” he wrote in the Daily Walk. “I was a little bit surprised as the question was not in the usual friendly tone that I was used to from this leader. I tried to gather my thoughts, and calmly asked, ‘Permission for what?’ He replied, ‘To pull all these people from around the world to your conference, the One thing.’ ‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘You mean the One project gatherings.* Anyone can come. They are simply spaces to talk about Jesus. I did not know we needed permission to talk about Jesus.’”
Japhet further comments, “Here is my hunch about the Sadducees at the time of the early Church. They were at one point responsible for sharing faith with the people from the seat of authority — the Temple. They did not believe in angels. They had become comfortable in their positions. They were not willing to engage in learning. They were not open to the discovery that God had been trying to show them for a long time. The Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, who did not have ‘permission’ to speak and lead. The apostles couldn’t contain the experience and knowledge of Jesus. The Gospel simply flowed out of them. As Luke described it earlier: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13.”
Simply speaking, no permission is needed to follow Jesus. No permission is needed to be creative in how you live love, His love. And do so in more than one way.