As Americans we pride ourselves on saying things like, “I have my rights!” And thank God that we do! In fact, history teaches us that certain states were not going to vote in favor of ratifying our Constitution until we add added our “Bill of Rights”, which we have been blessed as Americans to enjoy and appreciate ever since. Even the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we were created with “certain inalienable rights.”
And as much as we as American love our rights, sometimes we as Christians are often fond of expressing our “Christian liberties” as well. While it is true that there are many clear commands in Scripture regarding how we should live our lives, it is equally true that there are many “gray” areas that, at best, may have some principles to give us guidance while lacking any clear commands. It is on those areas that many Christians often feel free to express their freedom to follow their own conscience as to how they should live, regardless of how it may affect others.
Our reading today in 1 Corinthians 8 should cause us to pause and reflect on how much freedom we have as Christians to live as we think we have the right to. As mentioned previously in this letter, Paul again brings up the issue of meat that had been offered to idols, something that different Christians in the church had various opinions about. But take special note to the last 2 verses of this chapter, “But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
So what is Paul teaching us? He is reminding us that even though I may have the “right” as a Christian to follow what I believe is the Holy Spirit’s guidance in a certain area or activity, I also need to be mindful that if my actions offend a brother in the Lord, or cause him to stumble spiritually, I need to be willing to lay down my “right”. Even though I may feel as if a certain area or activity is acceptable, if it becomes a stumbling block to another believer then I need to at least pause and consider the ramifications of my actions. That brother or sister’s walk with the Lord should be more important to me than my “Christian liberty”, no matter how convinced I may be that I am in the right. May we be ever mindful of the effect our decisions may have on others around us