Often, it seems, when we are young the prime motive of our lives is “freedom.” We long to be free. We dream about it. We think about it. We reach for it. We try to force its arrival. We can’t wait to go to a friend’s house... or to make our own money to spend however we want...or to drive a car...or to have a later curfew... to get away to college... and so on.
It’s all natural enough, isn’t it? And the desire for freedom, properly balanced, is a good thing, too! Our nation came into existence, at least partly, because men of good will longed for freedom to practice religion as they understood the Bible to lead them.
But there are circumstances in which freedom becomes dangerous. Giving the family car keys to an improperly trained young person is dangerous. Allowing a 16 year-old young man and young woman the “freedom” to go anywhere they choose on a date without giving them any curfew, is not only unwise but potentially dangerous. Illustrations could be compounded.
The Bible speaks wonderfully of the freedom sinners are offered in Christ Jesus (see passages like Galatians 5:1 and John 8:31). In Jesus, at the point of our faithful submission to Him in baptism, we are set free from sin’s penalty, guilt and mastery. We are also set free from vain attempts to deal with our own sin – from trying to earn God’s good graces (a thing which we can never do). We are also free from the darkness of various superstitions and the doctrines of false religions. This liberty in Christ is amazing. It is a heady experience.
It seems the Christians at Corinth were very much enjoying their freedom in Christ. But they were being somewhat shortsighted. There were ways that they were practicing freedom that ended up being harmful to certain of their fellow Christians. And this is a wrong exercise of freedom for Christ’s followers.
We should be grateful for our freedom. We should enjoy it. We should stand up for it, and stand fast in it! But we have an even greater calling. We are called to love one another as Christ has loved us. One of the issues in the church at Corinth had to do with food that had been sacrificed to idols. Many of the Corinthian Christians had been converted from idolatry. As they grew in Christ they learned that idols were really nothing at all. There was no power in them and no real significance to them. So when meat was sacrificed to an idol – and, of course, the idol didn’t eat it – that food was taken away after a period of time and sold in the marketplace at discounted prices.
Christians who understood this knew they could save money on groceries and buy that food with no spiritual consequences at all. But a recent convert from idolatry, who didn’t yet understand all the truth about idols being nothing, would still have concerns about eating food so purchased. What should the “free” and more mature Christian do in the presence of his less mature Christian brother?
You see, the greatest freedom we have in Christ, is the freedom to give up our freedom for the welfare of another. In Christ we are called to freedom. But it is not the freedom to do whatever we wish under all circumstances. It is the freedom to do as we should!
Doug Oakes is minister at Woodlawn Church of Christ in Zanesville. Email: email@example.com.