Love Limits Liberty
Chuck Colson, former Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon, wrote, “our founders tied freedom to moral truth.” As believers in Yeshua, we have the ultimate freedom; having been set free from sin’s bondage and condemnation. What do we do with this liberty?
Liberty does not mean we can sin without guilt. Nor does it mean we are free to do whatever we want without regard for God and others. Sin is both lovelessness toward man and lawlessness toward God.
Do not Stumble Others!
‘.….take heed your liberty does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (I Corinthians 8:8-10).
We enjoy our liberty as long as it does not stumble “the weak.” By “weak” we mean believers who have not yet come to realize “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). We are not to use our liberty to eat or drink “whatever we want.” Rather, we consider whether a weaker believer might be stumbled into sin over it. Messiah died for this person. We are to care for them. Paul concludes:
Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble (I Cor. 8:13).
We should do nothing causing a brother to stumble and sin. This is loving others as ourselves (Lev 19:18).
Mature believers, use your liberty to edify the least of the brethren. Look for opportunities to build up and encourage all, especially the weak or easily stumbled.
Everyone is a Slave (of Messiah)!
We enjoy our liberty as long as it does not hinder the Good News from reaching those without Messiah. Though Paul had every right to be paid for his ministry, he chose not to exercise this liberty, so as not to hinder the Good News (9:1-18). He goes further and says:
Though I am free from all, I have made myself a slave to all..I may win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so I might win Jews.. I have become all things to all men, I do all things for the sake of the Good News, that I may become a partner of it (1 Corinthians 9:19-20, 22-23).
God Himself Accomplished our Salvation
Paul himself was a Jewish man, as such, he recognized the need to be sensitive to the various inflections of Jewish communities. Wherever he went, whatever community he ministered to, love limited his liberty; nothing hindered or distracted his proclamation of the Good News. We, too, should seek to do nothing in our liberty to hinder the communication of Good News to those outside the faith.
Sometimes this passage is used to portray Paul as deceptive; as someone who simply fashioned his faith based on what a group wanted to hear. However, Paul’s Good News message never changed: God’s love entered this world and made atonement, so anyone who repents, and trusts Messiah may be saved! What Paul sacrificed were his personal preferences, including cultural expression. This made him a partaker in the Good News (9:23). To accomplish our salvation, God Himself came in the flesh and suffered on a cross, which was not His personal preference.
Remember, the Good News is “to the Jew first.” Are we relating it in such a way that it makes sense to the Jewish people (Rom 1: 16)? Though this is the thrust of our ministry, this calling is granted to all! Faith communities have presented a message which has been ripped from its Jewish context. Contrary to this abuse of liberty, all redeemed Gentiles are called to make Israel jealous, thereby hastening the return of the Lord (Romans 11:11). Let us press on to the mark, using our freedom so the Good News may be truly seen as the revelation of the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world.
Sanctify His Name!
We enjoy our liberty as long as it does not dishonor the Lord. In the wilderness, my people believed we were so secure in our calling as Israel that we felt we could arrogantly sin, and God would have to bless us anyway (1 Cor. 10:1-5). We were dead wrong (10:5-14). In Messiah, therefore, we are not to do anything which, even in appearance, would bring dishonor to the name of Yeshua. If you are mature, use your liberty to exalt the Lord. Look for opportunities to praise Him, delight in Him, and bring honor to His Name. Our liberty in Messiah is given to us for the benefit of others. Remember the words of Paul, “by laboring you ought to support the weak” (Acts 20:35).
The Jewish people have been confused by an overreach in liberty. Viewed through a “Gentile lens,” faith in Messiah appears as faith in a non-Jewish god, and therefore, idolatry and dishonor. But our liberty in Messiah is given for the benefit of others. Remember the words of Paul, “by laboring you ought to support the weak.” And of Yeshua, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
This July, as many pray “God bless America,” may we use our liberty to bless God and sanctify His Name!