Sheldon Clowdus 3/23/2012Consider the story of this hypothetical Christian leader:
Now answer this question: Was this hypothetical leader successful?
Sheldon Clowdus 3/22/2012One of the marks of the young, restless, and reformed movement has been a renewed emphasis on Christian liberty. Now let me say right from the start that I am a big fan of Christian liberty and the freedom we have in Christ. After all, it was the apostle Paul who, in his letter to the Galatians, told us that it was "for freedom Christ has set us free" (Galatians 5:1). But I think there is a misunderstanding of what liberty and freedom mean in the context of following Christ. Or as the great philosopher Inigo Montoya once said, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Listening to some evangelical leaders speak of their freedom in Christ will quickly lead you to the conclusion that what they mean by "freedom" and "liberty" is that they are able to partake in any behavior or speech that is not forbidden by scripture. So since the bible does not forbid the drinking of wine, it is ok for me to drink wine. Since the scripture does not forbid me speaking or teaching explicitly about sex within the context of marriage then I am free to do so. And so one and so forth.....
The problem, as I see it, with this view of Christian liberty is that it isn't what the scriptures describe as our liberty as believers. The apostle Paul is very clear, both in Romans and 1 Corinthians, that our freedoms are bound both by our conscience and our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. So even if scripture does not forbid us from doing, going, or partaking, it is still sin for us if our conscience condemns us.
Even is scripture is silent or approving and our conscience is clear, it is still sin for us to exercise our liberty if it causes our fellow believers to stumble or to grieve. So we must curtail our freedom in some cases for the sake of weaker brothers so that their faith will not be hindered by our actions.
Ahh....but what about when we are trying to win the lost? Even if our exercising of our freedom is somewhat troubling to some weaker believers, surely that is a small price to pay for the chance to proclaim the gospel to someone who is lost. According to Paul the offense you give to your brother is more troubling than potentially missing a chance to proclaim the gospel to a lost soul. How does that make sense? There is no better evangelical tool than to demonstrate to the lost the great love that we have in Christ for our fellow believers.
Christ did indeed come to give us freedom. But it is not a freedom to do and say anything we please at anytime. We are not free in Him to cause harm to His church, His bride.
In Him we are free from our bondage to sin.
In Him we are free from the condemnation we deserve for our sin.
In Him we are free to delight in the triune God.
In Him we are free to live a life devoted to His glory.
So go live in the freedom that Christ purchased for you on the cross. Only remember the words of the apostles:
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. -- 1 Peter 2:16
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. -- Galatians 5:13
Use your freedom to glorify Jesus Christ by loving and serving your brothers and sisters in Christ.