Responsible Freedom


“’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.  No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.’”   1 Corinthians 10:23-26

In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul provides several principles to follow in what theologians label adiaphora – what God has neither commanded nor forbidden. 

Principle #1: Christians have the right and freedom to do what God hasn’t forbidden.  Don’t let others tell you that you can’t when they don’t have Scripture to back it up.

Principle #2: Don’t go looking for something wrong in what the Creator has so generously provided us.  God intends his people to enjoy life within the realm of Christian love and moral right.

Principle #3: Don’t let the sensitive conscience of another person impose restrictions on your freedom in Christ.  Just because another Christian doesn’t like something does not mean you can’t do it to honor God, when this is not something God’s Word calls sin.

Principle #4: Although something may be permissible, it may not be beneficial or constructive.  For example, it may be within the realm of Christian freedom for a mature believer to watch a movie that glorifies sin, but it may not be healthy to put so much stress on your discernment filter.  There are things we are free to do in our worship that might, however, be confusing or disruptive to others. So First Immanuel won’t likely spring liturgical dance on the congregation.

Principle #5: When a non-Christian lets you know that what is Christian freedom for you looks like hypocrisy to him, forego your freedom rather than provide an excuse for that person to reject the Gospel.  So, while the use of alcohol is not prohibited by Scripture, bar-hopping may say to your agnostic friend that your faith is superficial.  Be sensitive to how your actions are perceived, not merely how they are intended.

Principles #6: When someone whose faith is not as mature as yours may be led to doubt by what you know you are free to do, yield your freedom for that more sensitive Christian brother or sister.  So long as sensitive souls are struggling with their conscience rather than imposing that conscience on others, love will avoid what may be damaging to another person’s faith.

It is in the nature of the Christian life to apply principles of truth and love rather than to impose rules of religious obligation.  It is in the nature of the Christian life to freely obey our Lord rather than be driven by guilt or obligation.  The Gospel sets us free to truly serve.

PRAYER: Grow my faith, dear Lord, so that I know and avoid what is sin, and that I appreciate the freedom you give me to enjoy life with you.  Increase my love for others, so that I am sensitive to their concerns and willing to give up my rights in order to serve them.  Amen.

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