I can’t help it. I have to give my brain’s version of the other side of yesterday’s post. Modesty, humility, legalism, and stumbling blocks were rather hastily jumbled together, in an attempt to let some of what has been running through my mind come through the flood gate.
My main desire was simply to encourage fellow believers to evaluate our reasons for avoiding the things we avoid as stumbling blocks. Is it out of pride? Or does it flow from a heart of love toward God and our fellow believers?
I mentioned several good, biblical, godly reasons to abstain from certain things. One of the primary ones I want to focus on is the desire to keep others from stumbling.
I said yesterday that we can easily err on the side of legalism, and think that what we do or don’t do somehow curries favor with God, or makes us holier than the Christian next to us. Well, we can also err on the side of freedom. “It’s Christian Liberty!” we cry, all the while caring nothing for the weaker brother or sister who perhaps falls prey to a sin they have tried to master in the wake of our callous pride.
After all, we have passages like this to contend with:
“If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake–the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God–even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. ~1 Corinthians 10:27-33 (NIV)
The way I see it, we are to love God, love others, and live holy lives. We are supposed to be different than the rest of the world. I think it goes something like this: God loved us first. So, we respond by loving him back and surrendering our lives to him. Because of his great love, our love moves us to good works, and away from sin. (1 John 4:19)
Jesus did not save us so that we can do whatever we want in the name of freedom. When we learn love for God, we cannot help but love others, and to care deeply about their own walk with God. We desire to encourage, edify and help each other grow. That is not possible to do when we are flaunting our “freedom” in Christ. It’s not freedom if you imprison another person through your disregard for their conscience.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” ~Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)
How is it good to force feed your own freedom down a brother or sister’s throat?
Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. This means that we do have a lot of wiggle room in many areas. Those same ones I mentioned yesterday, for starters. There are many things God doesn’t stamp a big red NO! on. And in those areas, while we have the “right” it would be selfish, foolish, and unloving to just use the excuse of Christian Liberty to do whatever we want, regardless of how it might affect others around us.
It’s loving, kind, and holy to understand and know the company we are in, and to act accordingly.
Basically, Paul is saying that there are a lot of things we don’t need to be worried about. At all. Especially if we are living in an attitude of thankfulness toward God. We just need to be considerate of those whose conscience’s are touched where ours are not.
We don’t have to live by what another believer’s conscience tells them. “Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” We just need to lovingly set an example by submitting to one another when we are with each other.
That’s all there is to it.
Simply put, we don’t offer beer when we know we’re in company with a recovering alcoholic. We cover our nursing child in the company of those whom we know make a habit of doing so themselves, out of their desire for modesty. We don’t invite someone to our home to watch a rated R movie if we know it would bother them. We refrain from talking someone out of their convictions. Instead, we love them, serve them when they are with us, then go our merry way.
It’s good to be free. But not if it comes at the cost of killing another believer’s conscience.
Essentially, we want to land in the middle of the pendulum swing. We walk in true freedom, but we also walk in godly humility alongside our fellow believers, in love. We won’t always get the balance just right–goodness knows I throw it off often enough–but that is why God invented repentance and forgiveness.
He’s cool like that.
I hope that made even a modicum of sense. Give grace to those who are stumbling more than others. Help each other along. Encourage, edify, pray for, and love one another. Stop arguing about what we should or shouldn’t do with so many issues that are not clear-cut sin issues.
Let it go. Walk in freedom, but never at the expense of a fellow believer’s conscience. Honor your own conscience, but understand that God doesn’t touch everyone’s conscience in the same way. Look to Scripture for guidance, but understand that it is impossible to apply it perfectly, and understand that we just might be wrong.
I imagine we’ll all get to have a decent laugh at ourselves when we are finally together in Heaven…
Grace & Peace,