Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 21, 2011

love overrides liberty

My roots are distinctively Southern. I grew up loving grits, sweet tea, fried chicken and my momma’s biscuits, made from scratch. My roots also run deep in conservative Christianity. I accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, and that has shaped every part of my life. And for as long as I can remember, church has played a huge role.  So much, that whatever our church felt was important became the standard for me. I was “all in” on the rules of the Christian experience. I grew up in full view of the prohibitions of walking with God. No movies, alcohol, gambling or mixed bathing (girls and guys swimming together), were some of the rules that were a part of my spiritual roots. As I look back on those days now, I appreciate the training, but have softened on some of the legalistic viewpoints I once held.

Looking at 21st century Christian living, I am now concerned that liberty has overtaken legalism. We certainly have freedom in Christ. However, there doesn’t seem to be much that distinguishes those who profess Christ from those who aren’t Christ-followers. So where do we find the balance needed to live free in Christ, while at the same time honoring our faith by being set apart to Him? It’s a given that all believers should work at growing in their faith and standing true to Biblical truth. Our struggles come most often with the gray areas that confront us on a daily basis. One person may be free to drink wine and go to movies, while another feels that they should refrain from both. Who’s right? My goal isn’t to answer that question, but to give you thoughts on how you can.

The Corinthian church was not challenged by movies, or some of our other modern issues.  But make no mistake, they faced great challenge with the issues of their day. What about eating meat that had been first offered to idols? Corinthian Christians obviously didn’t believe in idols, so if they ate meat that had been offered to idols were they involving themselves in paganism? Eating meat or not eating it wasn’t the issue, but look at their quandary.

I Corinthians 8:7-10 (NIV1984)
But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?

Do you see how the conflict they had with meat offered to idols mirrors the struggle believers in Christ have with gray issues not explicitly prohibited in Scripture? Although my conscience may give me freedom, Scripture challenges me to take care that the exercise of that freedom doesn’t cause a brother to stumble. Paul’s inspired conclusion is found in verse thirteen of that same chapter…

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

From my perspective, here is the balance between my freedom and the spiritual care I have for others. My liberty should always be subjected to my love for others. If my freedom may cause another to stumble, out of love for them, I must refrain. And then trust God for my joy!

We all have to make our own choices. But our choices should always be tied to our love for the Savior, and those we are called to be in relationship with and minister to. When love overrides liberty…. the Father is pleased!  I still love grits, fried chicken and good movies. And you may have freedom in other areas, but we all have the responsibility to let (His) love guide us.

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