Friday, August 1, 2014

My Liberty- My Rights!

                Liberty- liberty to do as I choose because I have the right to be free and I have the right to choose to live my life as I desire. I have that right. It is my liberty. Over the past few months I have been struggling with some things that I see other Christians posting on social media. They see them as their liberties, but I
find myself wondering if maybe we, as Christians might be taking our liberties a little too far. I have been talking with another sister in the Lord about the liberty that we have as Christians. I have always been taught that as Christians we have liberties, and that each one may be different in those liberties. We are not convicted of these liberties, even though some of our brothers and sisters in the Lord might take offense at these same liberties. Still, they are our liberties and I have the right to use them as I see fit. Don’t I?
                This conversation all started when one of my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord began posting about drinking and going to secular music concerts. Before I became a Christian I went to a few of these concerts. What we did there was not godly, nor was anything in those concerts glorifying to the Lord. The question came up as to whether or not this fellow brother and sister should be so bold about their experiences at these concerts. Was I judging their liberty? Was I calling into question their lives as Christians? Did I have the right to question them in regards to this area of their life? This is how it all started, this conversation of liberty as Christians. What are our rights as Christians? What are our liberties in regards to one another? Should anyone have the right to question my liberty?
                This led me to pray and seek the Lord. Because, maybe I was judging them, maybe I was calling their behavior into question, and maybe I was being a little legalistic. This also made me question whether or not my liberties had become a stumbling block. What if I was taking my liberties too far? What I discovered was this; that our liberty in Christ is not an excuse for sinful behavior. Nor should my liberty in Christ ever exceed my love for the brethren. If my liberty causes someone to stumble, than I have caused that person to sin and I have offended Christ.
                “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall into our brother’s way.” Romans 14:13
Liberty, or liberties, is the right we have as Christians to live freely in Christ without judgment or condemnation. However, Paul warns us that our liberties can become stumbling blocks, and that we must be aware of this possibility. (1 Corinthians 8:9) A stumbling block is an obstacle that causes someone to fall. Like for instance, if you are walking along a trail and you trip over a rock, falling down and hurting yourself. A stumbling block not only causes someone to fall, but it can also cause permanent damage to their souls. A stumbling block is a spiritual hindrance that is caused when one brother becomes selfish and begins to use his liberty even though another is offended by it.
                Our liberties can become stumbling blocks, temptations leading to sin for others who observe us using these same liberties. No man is an island. We are all connected to one another. We are all part of the same body, same Lord, same Spirit. We are all one in Him. How we live our lives before one another does matter. Something a very wise woman once said to me was that “we gave up our rights to be right when we gave our lives to Jesus Christ.” My right to live my life as I choose died when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Our lives directly impact others around us, whether we want to believe it or not.
                If our liberties are more important than our brother or sister in the Lord, then we are no longer using those liberties as Christ has allowed us to. “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8:12-13) How we live our lives as Christians have a direct impact on those around us. If how I use my liberty offends a weaker brother and they begin to follow the same path and fall into sin, then I have not only sinned against my brother, but I have sinned against Christ! If my liberty is more important than my brother or sister in the Lord, then I am not longer walking in love, but walking in sin.
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                These stumbling blocks that Paul is speaking to us in Romans and 1 Corinthians are more than just food and drink. Our stumbling blocks can be our words. For instance, we may let a few curse words out from time to time. Our innocent use of these curse words could cause our fellow brother or sister in the Lord to fall down. Perhaps they had a problem with “potty” mouth before coming to the Lord, and for them it is a conviction. But for us it is just an innocent use of words to express ourselves. But in our innocence, our brother or sister in the Lord begins to let those words out again- causing him to feel convicted and full of sin before the Lord. Your innocent use of liberty could cause your fellow Christians to trip, fall down and become damaged by sin.
                Our actions, deeds, and how we live as Christians directly impact those around us. We can either choose to be sensitive to this or we can continue to live as we choose. I am not saying that we do not have liberties. I am not saying that we should stop drinking our glass of wine with dinner, or that we stop attending secular concerts- that is not my point. My point is that we have become so insensitive to the state of our fellow brothers and sisters that we have chosen our liberties over love. “Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19)

                “Is your liberty causing others to stumble as they follow you to their own destruction? If we don’t judge ourselves, the Lord will judge us- not to condemn us but to correct us. Yes, He gives us liberty for awhile. But He loves us as well as those around us too much to let us travel a dangerous road indefinitely.” (Jon Courson, Application Commentary New Testament, Romans 14:13, pg. 984) Has your liberty become more important that your brother or sister in the Lord? If it has, then we are no longer walking in love, but walking in sin. Let not your liberty cause a stumbling block but let us walk in love, laying down our liberties if by chance they might cause someone to stumble. Amen?