Christian liberties remain a popular topic among Christ followers no matter what side of the spectrum one lands on. One person believes it’s okay to drink wine, while another thinks it’s wrong. I’m not here to discuss alcohol or the Sabbath, but rather to ask this question: Are we too liberal with our Christian liberties?
Our past experiences shape us. For some, they’re left with a conviction not founded by Scripture, while others don’t feel an ounce of conviction regarding the very same act. We find both of these types of believers in Romans 14, as well as a call to each of them: Do not pass judgment; do not cause another to stumble.
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions…One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.(Romans 14:1, 5 ESV)
This passage continues on saying both honor the Lord, so this is clearly not about partaking in things deemed sinful by God. Though there’s much to say regarding the “weaker” person and their potential to judge others over gray areas, let’s focus on those who err on the opposing side of the debate.
If You Got It, Flaunt It?
Romans 14 and 15 have much to say to those of us who were liberated from legalism. I wonder, in our effort to fight against it, have we gone a bit too far? Yes, we are free to eat meat and drink wine, etc, but have we elevated these things above what’s most important? Here are four questions to ask ourselves:
Are we causing others to stumble?
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died…It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Romans 14:14-15, 21 ESV)
Though Paul speaks of those being grieved by our actions, he doesn’t mean we must abide by whatever rules someone else creates. However, the surrounding language leads us to another conclusion. Here we find a warning against causing other believers to fall into sin or be tempted by our actions. We must be sensitive to those who are grieved by our liberties since they may be grieved because of their past struggles.
“By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” This is a sobering statement everyone should heed.
Truly, if our actions aren’t causing others to sin, but they still want us to submit to their rules, they’ve placed themselves in the judgment seat. It’s okay to address this, but may we do so humbly.
Are our Christian liberties too important?
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17 ESV)
Regardless of how much one loves smoking or drinking, these things are worthless in comparison to the kingdom of God and the souls therein. If we’re willing to cause others to stumble or to quarrel about these issues, it proves we love our liberties more than other believers and possibly more than God. If you’re offended or unwilling to abstain for the sake of weaker believers, you don’t show yourself to be very strong.
A strong, godly disciple of Christ would lay aside selfishness in order to bless others and remain at peace and unity.
Are we flaunting our Christian liberties?
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. (Romans 14:22 ESV)
This isn’t a call to stop posting pictures of our glass of wine on social media, but rather to look at our motive in doing so. If you want to post a picture with friends and there happens to be a beer in hand, post away! If someone judges you, they’re accountable to God. But if you’re doing so to boast in your Christian liberty without thought of your “weaker brother” or to spark a debate with the other side, you are accountable to God.
I fear we may spend more time boasting in our Christian liberties on social media than we spend boasting in Christ.
Furthermore, we must ask ourselves, does boasting in our Christian liberties display Christ to the world or build up the Church?
Are we “others focused” with our Christian liberties?
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:1-2 ESV)
As Christians, our focus should be to love God and others well. Throughout Scripture, we find the command to love others more than ourselves (Philippians 2:3; John 13:34; Romans 12:10). This includes those who may have a harsh opinion about our Christian liberties.
I’m not saying we can’t share our opinion on a matter or correct legalism, but at the end of the day, it’s better to prefer a fellow believer than to “quarrel over opinions.”
Jesus is Our Example
Please don’t mistake me as saying we should lock up the alcohol, hide our cigars, and only partake in these things when alone in a dark room. We need not fear the judgment of mere man regarding the things Christ has made clean. But may we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, seeking to please others, not as people-pleasers out of fear of man, but as humble servants of God, willing to give up the pleasures of this world for the sake of the lives around us.
For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”…May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:3, 5-7 ESV)