Christian Liberty Part II: Limiting Your Freedom for the Good of Others

In Christian Liberty Part I we looked at how we deal with disagreements between believers and spoke about the first principle of Christian liberty: giving others freedom to be different. We noted that it is not condoning practices with which we disagree, but accepting people while not allowing the practices to be divisive issues between us. Today we want to look at a second principle of Christian liberty: limiting your freedom for the good of others.

Romans 14:13-23 makes it clear that Christian liberty does not mean you are free to do something which would cause another Christian to stumble and be drawn into sin—vs. 13, 21. While acceptance of others has to do primarily with the attitude of your heart, limiting your freedom has to do primarily with your actions. You are accountable for how your life affects other believers because each has experienced saving grace through the cross of Christ. The cross not only purchases the faith of those who are weaker, it also purchases the faithfulness of those who are stronger. This is the grace and glory of the cross in this text.

Paul places himself among the stronger in vs. 14 and lays out for us another principle in this area—if you believe something is wrong (even if others don’t) and you do it, it is sin for you. He repeats the idea in verse 23. It is wrong because it is not done under the Lordship of Christ and with a clear conscience. Trying to get others to do something you feel the freedom to do, but they don’t, displays a lack of love and could lead to their ruin—vs. 15. In contrast, Christians are called to walk in love, to pursue peace and to edify/build up—vs. 15, 19. You are to be intentional in communicating, both in words and actions, grace-filled, Spirit-directed, Christ-centered care for others. In order to do this it may mean setting aside things you feel free to do in order to safeguard the faith of another. Regarding questionable things, Paul says in vs. 22, you should keep them between yourself and God.

The other side of the coin is that the weaker brother/sister is not to tyrannize the church by trying to make his/her personal opinion a law for everyone. In this situation, the weaker Christian needs to be lovingly confronted and taught these principles by those who are stronger. The point is to live out the truth that unity is more important than personal preferences and opinions. It is okay to deliberate the mode and timing of baptism, or the merits of a particular version of the Bible, or the question of spiritual gifts or abstaining from certain amusements. It is wrong to say that anyone who does not agree with your position is not a true believer or is being unfaithful to the Lord.

So to summarize the message in Christian Liberty Parts I and II, we could say that the question in these disputable matters is never merely, “Is it permissible?”  So what are the questions?

  1. When it comes to deciding whether or not you should do something, the two key words are “Lordship” and “conscience.”  What are the questions?

-Can I do it for the Lord and for His glory?  Vs. 6-8

-Can I do it without doubt?  Vs. 5, 23

If you cannot answer “yes” to both of these questions, you should not do it.

2.  When it comes to laying aside the exercise of your freedom for the good of others, the two key words are “love” and “limits.”  What are the questions?

-Will the exercise of my freedom promote loving unity (or,  conversely, will the exercise of my freedom foster discord)? Vs. 15, 19

-Will the limiting of my freedom in a given situation help to safeguard the faith of another (or, conversely, will the exercise of my freedom in a given situation cause someone to stumble)? Vs. 13, 21

If you cannot answer “yes” to both of these questions, you should not do it.

Faithful kingdom living in the area of Christian liberty involves serving Christ through the living out of these principles. When we do so, we will find that we are acceptable to God and approved by men (vs. 18).

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About Dr. John H. Harbison

Son of God, Husband, Father, Author of "Keeping Christ in Ministry,"Vice-President for Academic Affairs, College Pastor, Runner, Writer
This entry was posted in Successful Christian Living and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Christian Liberty Part II: Limiting Your Freedom for the Good of Others

  1. writinggomer says:

    Very well stated, I really like this.
    Blessings

    Greg

  2. Pingback: Christian Liberty Part I: Giving Others the Freedom to Be Different « Inspirational Christian Blogs

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