By Rev. Robert W. Warren,
Church of the Nazarene
The passage I read this morning as I journey through the Bible this year was entitled “How to Use Christian Freedom”. It was found in I Corinthians 10:23-24, from the New Century Version. It reads like this, “‘We are allowed to do all things’, but not all things are good for us to do. “‘We are allowed to do all things,’” but not all things help others grow stronger. Do not look out only for yourselves. Look out for the good of others also.”
That passage was probably never more pertinent than for America today. We enjoy wonderful freedoms. And the Word here gives us as good of a set of guidelines as anywhere on how to conscientiously treat that freedom.
First, it calls us to consider even though we might be free to do this or that, is it good for us to do? Is it moral and ethical? Is it what God would consider good?
Second, it calls us to consider that though we might be free to do something, is it helpful to others to grow stronger? What is in the best interest of others, our society; or another question: what if everybody did it? What kind of America would we have?
Third, it challenges us to consider the overarching idea of not looking out only for ourselves, but also for the good of others.
This leads us to one of the most important principles for a free people, that of self governance and self control. You see, someone can have freedom but use that freedom to choose things that in the end rob them, and others, of their freedom. And that is a tragic squandering of freedom.
The Word says in Jude where it speaks of godless men, that “they… change the grace of our God into a license for immorality”. In another place the Word says “You . . . were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galatians 5:13-14).
What father is not heartbroken over the daughter who uses their freedom to indulge in drug use and then sees that very thing steal their freedom as they become a slave to it? Or what mother is not heartbroken over the son who uses their freedom to indulge in alcoholism and then sees that very thing steal their freedom and enslave them? The list goes on, but should include everything the Bible calls sin, for that is why God calls it a sin, because it enslaves His beloved child; enslaves him or her to unhealthy and destructive behavior, both to themselves and others.
So yes, in this wonderful land that we live in, you may be free to do this or that, but the guiding factors should be whether it is a good thing, and whether it takes others, even society as a whole, into account.
John Adams in a speech to the military in 1798 warned his fellow countrymen stating, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
God’s Word speaks to us in this area not only on the level of personal moral behavior, but as a society and nation. Our individual decisions not only affect us personally, but also those around us. And collectively, they impact society as a whole. Furthermore, our decisions extend to those we vote to put in office and the policy decisons they hold. For instance, we are perfectly free to decide who to vote for, but if we put in office those who will make decisions that undermine freedom, we are diminishing that freedom. Let us use this tremendous blessing of freedom wisely! If we use our freedom to indulge in those things– or policies– which steal that freedom, we will cease to be free.