Let’s play a game! What do the following have in common?
Drinking, smoking, watching TV, dancing, mixed swimming, movie theaters, tattoos, rock & roll
Did you figure it out? For me, these are all subject or activities that I have heard sermons condemning as things Christians shouldn’t do! Yes, I know! I had to reach back a few years to get some of them but I guess that’s one advantage of being a “seasoned citizen”!
Let me be quick to say that I wasn’t saying I had preached the aforementioned sermon, only that I had heard the subject addressed. My own experience of trying to figure out what Christian Liberty looks like in theory and personal application has been heavily influenced by all kinds of factors including sermons, parents, friends, culture, school and of course, trial and error. I would invite you to reflect upon some of the issues mentioned above and think about how you came to the opinion/belief you currently hold. As you do, I suspect you too will discover many influencing factors.
If you are waiting for me as a preacher to now tell you what I think about all of these issues you will be waiting for a long time. My view is that issues, like the ones mentioned above, must be dealt with by each of us and often our consciences, the ways our heart and mind have been shaped by life’s many experiences, will stop us from participating because “to us” they are not permitted. Paul, the Apostle, addresses the very subject I am raising here in Romans 14-15. The particular issues Paul is addressing have to do with food, celebrating certain holidays, drink, etc. He reveals a critical truth:
“I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” Romans 14:14-15
Something becomes bad if one of two situations occurs:
- If I go ahead and engage in one of these areas while having feelings that for me it is wrong.
- If I insist that my perspective on the issue is the only correct one and push others to see it my way.
Notice how Paul wraps us this important lesson on how Christian Unity is to be lived out in the context of a multi-cultural Church:
“So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” Romans 14:22
“Keep between yourself and God.” Let that soak in for a moment. Imagine how much conflict could be avoided if we sometimes just kept our mouths shut. Perhaps a great way to live out our faith here and now includes a healthy dose of exercising our freedom to live out the path the Lord has for us by not imposing our opinions on others. It means we each must be true to convictions we have while recognizing those convictions on certain non-essential matters are not binding upon all. It starts by enhancing our awareness that we belong to King Jesus who purchased us through His death. As His, we follow His invitation to become co-heirs with Him and represent Him now. He is our Lord and to Him may we ever be true!