MM00059 Lawful or helpful
Mentoring Manna: Lawful or helpful?
© 2003 Pastor Keith Hassell
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well being.” In modern Christian circles, much is said about embracing our liberty in Christ Jesus, but little is said about the responsibility that comes with it. It seems today that Christians elevate the truth that we are no longer “under the law” in order to cast off all sense of accountability to one another and to justify their independent and selfish choices.
In speaking to Gentile believers in Christ, Paul challenged them to rethink the way they viewed their freedom in Christ. He taught that meat sold in the market place that had been sacrificed to idols was okay to eat if sanctified with the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5). The understanding that there is only one God and that there is no such thing as an idol released a freedom among Gentile believers to receive all foods as provision from God. On the other hand, he also taught that if eating meat sacrificed to an idol causes a brother or sister who is without understanding to stumble in the area of their conscience toward God, then it is better to abstain from eating meat for the sake of their conscience toward God. Paul’s point is clear: while all things are lawful, not all things are helpful. Not everything that is a good choice for us turns out to be a good choice for another. Our responsibility in embracing Christ’s freedom is to through love look out for the best interests of others.
As Christians we are to follow the example of Christ. Although He was free, He made Himself a servant. Although He was a God, He humbled Himself and became a man. He did not seek His own interests, but He sought the eternal interests of all men. In our immaturity in Christ we embrace freedom without responsibility, but in our maturity in Christ we learn that our freedom comes with a responsibility to be like Jesus.
While we might want to demand the full extent of our freedom in Christ, the love of God constrains us to consider one another in our choices. If we ignore this constraint, then we fall into the sinful attitude of the wicked Cain who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The truth is that we do not live our Christian lives in a vacuum. Our choices affect others beside ourselves. We are responsible to use our freedom in a way that others can walk victoriously in their faith. Remember again the words of Paul: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Therefore let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.”
Application: Are you walking in the maturity or in the immaturity of your freedom in Christ? Those who are immature continue to use their freedom to divide and damage others. They continue to insist on their freedom at the expense of others. They continue to do what they feel is their freedom to do even if it causes others to stumble or harms their witnessing potential. They live as if the goal of their freedom is to demonstrate to the world that no one can tell them what to do but God. What if others are hindered or destroyed in the process? That is the other person’s problem. Some get downright stubborn in defense of what they excuse in the name of “Christian liberty” even when faced with the ardent pleas of mature brothers and sisters in Christ. But those who are mature in freedom are conscious of the way their choices affect others. Although they are just as free as those who are immature, the goal of their freedom is edification in love. They exercise the responsibility of freedom by making choices that benefit the spiritual progress of others and help build up the church. Will you be mature in freedom? Then do not seek your own benefit, but in love seek the well-being of others.