Last week I started writing about principles of Christian liberty. First I explained that not everything we have to deal with in life comes in the form of a “thou shalt” or a “thou shalt not.”
The things that the Bible says “thou shalt not” on are always wrong. The things that the Bible says, “thou shalt” are always right. In between these two poles is our liberty in Christ.
(wrong) | — LIBERTY — | (right)
ThenI began writing about how to determine whether something that falls between the poles of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” is something that we ought to do. These are some principles that should guide our exercise of Christian liberty. I’ve put these principles in question form to make them more personal for us.
The questions we’ve seen so far are:
This leads to our next two questions.
Will this hinder others?
“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? 11 And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? 12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 (NKJV)
While we may be certain that there is nothing wrong with this particular activity, we have to ask ourselves if it will cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble. We don’t want to hurt someone’s spiritual life through our liberty.
Notice in verse 12 that we are told we are sinning against Christ by flaunting our liberty in others faces. The main idea is that a person’s soul is more important than our exercising our liberty. Paul seems to be saying that it would ridiculous for us to endanger someone’s eternal soul for the sake of some temporary thing.
This is something I have thought a lot about in the last few months. I have come to the conclusion that for this to be a sin it has to be done intentionally. If I know that you are struggling with something that I feel is an area of liberty and I intentionally flaunt my liberty in front of you that is a sin. But if I don’t know that you are struggling with this and you see me doing this, I don’t see how it could be a sin. We need to ask ourselves if we know that what we are doing will harm someone else’s spiritual life.
Am I being selfish?
“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’” Romans 15:1-3 (NKJV)
Even if we know that there is nothing wrong with these things we can’t always go ahead and do them just because we want to. We have to take others into consideration as well. The example of Jesus that we are to follow is that He sought out the good of others ahead of His own wants.
We must check our attitudes. Do we have the attitude, “Regardless of what anyone says or thinks I’m going to do what I want to do.” The Bible speaks about that kind of attitude.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
When we give our lives to Christ we give up the right to be the center of the universe.
It is important to understand, these are not rules that make us more holy. Holiness is an internal quality that is rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These are principles of behavior and decision making that help us be better ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
Are there ways you are exercising your Christian liberty that you know is hindering someone else’s Christian life? Are there ways you are exercising your Christian liberty that is little more than an act of selfishness? If so, what do you need to do?