During my high school years, I knew many who were allowed to freely attend school functions or simply hang out with friends multiple times per week. But in our household, teenagers were allowed only one evening out per week, with no exceptions. One of the problems with being so restricted was, once granted that weekly evening liberty, my brother and I went to extremes to make the most of the limited time we had. We were abusing our liberty with very poor conduct.
A similar problem existed throughout most of the churches founded by the Apostle Paul. Many who had been freed from the exacting bondage of the Mosaic Law were misusing their new found liberty. Paul wanted them to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). But some were taking their liberty to extremes of sinful conduct. This is why Paul’s letters warn about immorality, lying, theft, drunkenness, a lack of giving, and more. Paul tells them: “…brethren, ye have been called to liberty, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). God had given them great liberty through grace, but they were not to misuse that liberty. These abuses were offending new believers, and bringing shame on the testimony of Christ. So Paul addressed this problem, saying: “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak” (I Corinthians 8:9). In addition to sinful conduct or offending others, there are two standards to judge the proper use of liberty. Paul said: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient…I will not be brought under the power of any” (I Corinthians 6:12). If your choices are causing you to lose self-control that restrains you from sinful practices, they are wrong. First Corinthians 10:23 counsels: “All things are lawful for me…but all things edify not.” If your choices do not build up other believers in Christ, they, too become a misuse of liberty.
Liberty in Christ can be misused today too. We have liberty in our choices of clothing, a marriage partner, length of hair, beverages consumed, frequency in the Scriptures, and church participation. But we must not use our liberty “for an occasion to the flesh.” Purpose today that your liberty will only be used to honor Christ.
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