Liberty & Inclusivity

All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. All things are permissible is an expression of freedom. We are not limited by law or threat of judgment in Christ. We are free to make our own decisions and we might therefore choose to drink or not drink, smoke or not smoke, curse or not curse, and not be condemned. The way that Paul would put it is that anything done in faith is good and whatever we do apart from faith is sin. In a world of strict religion and fundamentalist legalism this kind of freedom is liberating to many and terrifying to some as well.

In Romans 14 Paul addressed a similar issue that was relevant to their culture and day. He writes:

"One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. Romans 14:2-6
Faith is the crucial part and each will stand or fall before their master. We must not condemn our brothers or sisters who may, in their freedom choose to do something that we could not do in good conscience. We also must not belittle another's choice to abstain from something that we have no problem enjoying. Choices are ours to make before God and in accordance with our conscience. The way Paul puts it is "I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean." This is a liberating thing to realize. I can go without if I choose and I can give thanks and enjoy if I so choose as long as I can do that thing in faith and in the presence of God. Many have often thrown around the phrase "Only God can judge me" and here we realize that it is very much true. The important thing to remember for the one saying that is that God will will judge you too and that is a very sobering reality. I am reminded of Joe Dirt's mother asking "Is this where you wanna be when Jesus comes back?" We must live our lives and make our decisions at the very foot of the throne of God.

Our liberty however is no excuse to not love our brothers and sisters. Paul continues in Romans 14:

If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died....Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. 
We will find that, for many reasons, love might mandate that we freely choose for the sake of another to go without something that would otherwise be just fine for us. For example, I don't think there is anything wrong with having a beer and I would not have any problem giving thanks for it or having it with Jesus for that matter. Remember Jesus first miracle was to turn water to wine so that the wedding celebration could continue to rock on. At the same time I know that many people we welcome into our house on a regular basis struggle with addiction and alcoholism so we do not keep alcohol around. Hospitality and love of neighbor compels me to freely choose to abstain so that I might not harm another. I remember one night when an alcoholic was over cooking dinner with me, there was a bottle of cooking wine with the oils and vinegar. He told me that was what he always used to drink. I never would have considered that since I cannot imagine anyone wanting to drink cooking wine. When I asked about it he told me that he tended to drink cooking wine because he had been able to buy it using his food stamps. I don't think I have ever met anyone with a moral conviction about cooking wine and yet my love for this man and any others like him who may come to our house for dinners compelled me to get rid of that bottle and make sure we didn't buy another. Also I would gladly use it at your house if appropriate.

You see my abstinence in this case comes from faith. Loving our neighbors is how we live out our faith and we will often find that love and inclusivity will mean a limitation of our liberty as an act of liberty itself. I am free to go without because I am free to love.
Romans 14 has been such an important passage for me as I have considered righteousness, freedom and love. In the end I am not to judge others, for that is between them and God. Also when it comes to living my own life there is freedom and responsibility which can be a lot harder than a clear law to obey for "everything that does not come from faith is sin"


  1. Hey, so I have been thinking lately about this. I have been tossing around this idea of how much do we actually obey the commandments that God gave. ( I fail at A LOT of them...I have a list!) AND THEN, I realized(well, really God put in my head) ...the laws of the Old Testament were OUT OF LOVE!!! AH! The rules didn't change, but the heart did. Instead of having the rules/laws be a burden, they became freedom with Jesus, as they were meant to be! :D eeek! ISN'T THAT COOL?!?!?! It is doing what God commands because we love the Lord, not because it is the rule. :D God is the same in the Old and the New! :D THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING THING I've learned all week! :D Thank you for the post! It's funny how different people can be thinking about the same things sort of :) Praise Jesus! Lexi


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