In 1990 The Soup Dragons released a cover of The Rolling Stones 1969 hit, “I’m Free”. Although I’m sure neither band knew it, their song lyrics have an amazing theological truth. However it’s a truth that led Paul to make some incredible clarifications that put our “freedom” in check.
The opening line says, “I’m free to do what I want any old time.” From a theological stance, when we have accepted our Lord and Savior… when we have acknowledged His death and resurrection as payment in full for our sins (past, present and future), then we receive our FREE gift of grace and are FREE from condemnation and are FREE from the bondage of sin. With total assurance of our salvation, we truly are free to do what we want.
However, having the right to do something and that something being right to do are not always the same. Paul addressed this well when clarifying a debate that was taking place in Corinth. In that town at the time, many people in the community were still sacrificing food to ‘other gods’. As the evangelists of this new growing church would seek to connect with others, that would often mean having a meal with them. People in the church had two dynamically opposing views on this practice and it was creating a problem in the church. So Paul clarified, and his clarification relates perfectly to other “freedoms” we have.
One group was saying, since these false ‘gods’ that the food was sacrificed too, don’t really exist… what harm is there? Isn’t it better than I spend time with this person to win them over to Christ, rather than judge their eating habits? The other group was saying that it was the equivalent to idol worship because by eating the sacrificed food, you are endorsing their practice, therefore ascribing worth or value to the subject of the sacrifice.
Paul’s answer basically says, you’re both right and you’re both wrong.
“But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor 8:9-12)
The issue was not about whether or not we have the freedom to eat such meat. Since we are free in Christ… of course we have that freedom. Since these ‘gods’ don’t really exist or have any power over Christ, it means nothing. This is all true. However, if in the exercise of our freedom, we cause another weaker brother to stumble and fall away… was it really worth it? For if us exercising our freedom to do a thing, leads another soul away from Christ, have we not put the value of that freedom over the eternal security of that soul?
While this example was about food that had been sacrificed to idols, the same can be said for just about any other freedom we have. In Christ, we are free. We have an obligation to help the weak Christian to come to that understanding and free themselves from bondage as well.
So yes, you are free to listen to whatever music you want, watch the entertainment you want, drink what you want, etc. But if your exercise of said freedom either leads you into a temptation or causes another to stumble… then you have worshiped (ascribed value to) your freedom over and above the salvation of others.
So be free… but even more so… be Kingdom focused.
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