Wielding Freedom Wisely

Romans 14: 1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. .....13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit... Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." Romans 14:13 RSV

Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

For awhile now I've been enjoying an immense state of freedom in Christ, letting go of the past and embracing what God has for me. My whole being has never felt so full of light and joy! I'd liken it to feeling like a ravenous child in a giant candy store; I just can't get enough freedom! But the thing about freedom is that it is a privilege, and one we must wield wisely and while there are many messages and teaching on how to become free, there are very few on how to wield it wisely. Not so long ago at a lifegroup the leader speaking talked about drinking. It's a controversial subject even in the most liberal of churches. Banter started back and forth, some talking about things we should avoid while others talked about Paul's statement that 'anything was permissible but not everything is beneficial." The leader pointed out that drinking had no benefits, at which point I declared that 'neither does eating a cupcake.' The room fell silent and I immediately regretted my statement. I knew right then that I'd not spoken out of love, but pride. I was wielding my freedom like a weapon, leaving only offense in my wake. At my church there is a person who is notorious for their worship style. You'll find them at the first service of the weekend in the very front row dancing and twirling, shouting and singing, and generally being a distraction. You'd think in a church of around 14,000, one person's free worship style wouldn't matter, but I just recently heard of a couple who refuse to attend my church because the wife took offense to their rather racuous praising. I wonder if that person in the front row knows what a stumbling block they are putting before their fellow believers? I know you, like I once did, may be thinking "But isn't it their problem?" Reading Romans 14 should banish that train of thought right out of our heads. God says "we do not live alone," (Romans 14:7) and He's right. What good is our freedom if it causes offense and division among fellow believers ? How wrong would it be for us to irresponsibly use our freedom in a way that may actually tighten the chains of someone elses bondage? Surely this is not love. 1 Corinthians 13: 1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This doesn't mean that we hide our freedom under a bushel, or ignore the things God is speaking to us. No! But it does mean that we must use discernment and wisdom with our actions and words. It's essential for us to realize that we're all on our own journey to freedom, and each of us is traveling at a different pace. It is of the utmost importance we love one another enough to let God grow us in His own time and it's only loving to make sure that our own freedom does not impede the process. That is love.


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