“You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Farewell” —Acts 15:29 NIV.”
There is a runaway mindset in the church today. It has to do with so-called freedoms that Christians are promoting and defending for self-serving purposes and not for the edification of the body of Christ (the church). Understand up front that this is not a rant or diatribe. It is written to teach how to move to a higher level of service to the Lord. There must be an understanding that followers of Jesus can be anywhere along the spectrum of growth from a babe still needing to partake of the milk of the Word to those who are mature and growing through partaking the meat of the Word. That being said, this article is for those who can take the information, not be angry for learning it, and pray about incorporating it into their daily service to our Lord.
There is mindset in the church that pushes boundaries. There are a number of specific examples that could be called out, but making a list would probably shut down most readers from even attempting to understand what is being taught in this article. So, instead of a list of specific questionable freedoms many are actively promoting and defending in the church, let us begin with a biblically historical example.
When the early church was established, there was a meeting that is referred to as the Council at Jerusalem. It was held around 50 AD, which is about two decades after Jesus rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. The apostles, including Paul—the apostle referred to as one called out of due season— and Barnabas, were there. James decreed what was decided concerning Gentiles (non-Jewish believers) when it came to circumcision and keeping the Law.
Paul and Barnabas taught that observing the law given to Moses for the Jews about circumcision of the flesh was not necessary for salvation through Christ. Some others were teaching that it was a necessary rite to be performed in order to be saved and that keeping the whole Law of Moses after circumcision was also necessary. This teaching was in error as it added something to the grace through faith in Jesus that is the foundation of the Gospel of Christ.
The decree of the council at Jerusalem was to not burden the Gentile believers with observance of the Mosaic Law other than to not fornicate, to not eat meat that was from an animal that was strangled (where the blood would remain in the animal), to not consume blood (a common practice among some non-Jews), and to not consume meat from animals that have been sacrificed to idols (meat purchased in markets was often sacrificed to an idol before being sold to the public). Such things were common among the Gentiles, and they were of great offense to Jewish followers of Christ.
The various churches now had believers who were Jews and Gentiles worshiping and learning about Jesus together. These few things being observed would help to prevent serious problems at the local gatherings of believers, even if the Gentiles were not under obligation to observe other rituals of the Law.
Then, Paul later wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:4 (NIV), “So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that ‘An idol is nothing at all in the world’ and that ‘There is no God but one.’” It sounds like a go-ahead to be free to eat food (including flesh/meat) sacrificed to idols. It sounds like a freedom to enjoy a meal out, even if it is dinner at the local temple where you know that the meat was sacrificed to a false god. However, the rest of the chapter does not bear that out. It plainly establishes that even if your conscience is clear in eating food sacrificed to a false god, because you know that the statues of wood, stone or metal are not alive and have no power whatsoever, you should choose not to in order to protect your brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have such strong minds. Paul Said,
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall” — 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 NIV (emphasis mine).
This example should be the real go-to mindset for any so-called liberties that followers of Christ are personally or collectively attempting to promote or establish. These liberties may be anything. They may be a local custom or way of doing things. They can be an attitude. It could be anything from politics or choices to participate in certain entertainment events to a manner of dress or even the social use of alcohol.
Some followers of Christ get angry when it is found out that other followers are questioning something they are doing or not doing. The standard response is often to start spouting scriptures about freedoms when it should be a heartfelt concern of having done something to cause a weaker brother or sister to fall.
Paul went on in 1 Corinthians 9:19 to talk about how he was free but became a slave to win as many souls for Jesus as he could. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul talked about bringing his body under subjection to not lose out on the reward after having preached to others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NIV) has the Apostle noting, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Considering all the things you choose to do or not do as a Christian, do they serve the furtherance of the Great Commission to take the Gospel to everyone? Or, are there some things that are self-serving indulgences of the flesh that are claimed as liberties in Christ to be enjoyed but are actually causing a dissension or stumbling of those “others” of whom we all should be seeking their good?