“But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak.” – 1 Corinthians 8:9 (CSB)
To eat or not to eat? That was the question in Corinth. Was it okay for Christians who felt the freedom to eat meat sacrificed as part of pagan rituals to do so? Or should they abstain from eating if it would harm some of their brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul’s answer to both questions: yes.
We would do well to apply his conclusions to the positions and actions we take today. We may be within our “rights” to do something, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary or helpful to do it. Christianity is not about declaring our rights. It’s about laying them aside for the good of others. After all, we follow a Savior who did not cling to his rights but willingly relinquished them for our salvation. The least we can do out of gratitude is treat others the same way.
Christian freedom is always a difficult subject. It’s messy, full of gray areas, and well-meaning people often disagree. I’ve always found Galatians 5 to be clarifying because it speaks against both legalism and licentiousness. Believers in Galatia were being told they had to submit to the regulations and guidelines found in the Law. It was Jesus plus something. Paul sharply disputed this reminding them that Christ has freed us from the need to keep the Law. At the same time, freedom in Christ is never an excuse to sin or be flippant about the things of God. It’s not a license to indulge the flesh.
This latter point is where most of the messiness comes into the picture. There is a tendency in many believers to skirt the edges morally in the name of Christian freedom. Sometimes there are disastrous consequences. Usually though, the biggest damage is in our witness before the world. Our lives are to be marked by the fruit of the Spirit. The kind of freedom Christ brings is not an invitation to look and act like the rest of the world. It’s a call to discover that true freedom is found by increasingly submitting our lives to him.
I love America. I believe it’s the greatest country in the world. There is nowhere else I would want to live. I’m thankful for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. But as great as our country is, we are not God’s chosen people nor are we some sort of city on a hill. Please don’t blend patriotism with theology. That never ends well.
God has undoubtedly blessed America. But not because we have done anything to deserve it. He has blessed us out of his abundant grace. May God continue to shed his grace on our country for centuries to come.