Monday, January 7, 2013

Statutes of Liberty

Today's passage:  Romans 15:1-6
     "For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me."
     Paul starts this chapter, reminding mature Christians to be careful with their Christian liberty.  The whole chapter before this dealt mostly with this subject, about not being a stumbling block, about abstaining from certain things (in this case meat offered to idols) if it would be a problem for a fellow Christian, particularly a Christian younger in the Lord.  Now, it would be easy to grumble and complain about this. I know many Christians grumble and complain about it, myself included, and I have a pretty sure guess that the Christians in the early church grumbled and complained as well.  If they hadn't, there would have been little need to address it.   Then Paul drops the anvil.  It is pretty hard to complain about giving up certain liberties until I realize that Christ gave everything up for me.
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      If Jesus could have done it another way, I'm guessing He probably would have brought His riches from Heaven with Him. He would have been excellent help in Joseph's carpenter shop when He could speak a piece of furniture into existence rather than using the hammer, nails and wood.  Using his supernatural powers, He could have silenced the Pharisees by making them dumb.  He could transport from town to town to preach rather than walking those great distances and he would never have to borrow another man's home for a night's sleep.  If Jesus could have done it another way, He would probably never have come to earth at all.  He gave up His comforts, His powers, His life.  Anything I might have to give up seems awfully petty by comparison, doesn't it?  Now, I don't know why God chose to have Jesus come the way He did, but something tells me, that He had to live like us, to be an example for us.  None of us will have all the power of the universe, but I might have to change my way of doing things to reach someone else or help them grow.  I never had to give up golden streets or ivory palaces, but I might have to hold my tongue if someone says something unpleasant to me.  I never had to give up my life (prayerfully, never will) but I might have to steer away from certain topics of conversation if it might be offensive to a younger Christian.  Do I have the freedom to watch, go, listen to, say, whatever I want?  Of course I do.  Are there people who will take advantage of the Christian liberty issue, claiming they are offended by this thing or that thing?  Yes.  We will encounter that too, and then we have to decide if it is a matter of causing a Christian to genuinely stumble or whether they just have a critical spirit (which even if that is the case, doesn't necessarily mean I still shouldn't be accomodating).  Jesus could have barred the Pharisees from ever coming to listen to Him.  They were always critical, trying to entrap rather than enjoy.   They never came because they wanted to believe (although Nicodemus eventually did).  Jesus was not too concerned about offending them, because they never intended to receive Him.  But He is all-knowing, and He could make that judgement.  I am not.  So when my Christian liberty is in question, I would be better to let the thing go rather than examine all angles of the case to see if it is something I should continue to pursue.  Is my comfort or right to something really worth offending a fellow brother or sister in Christ, or worse yet, causing an  unsaved person to stay unsaved?  Every person has to decide that for herself, but as for me, I don't feel at liberty to risk it.

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