i learned a great deal during our recent expository study of 1 corinthians on sunday mornings. and i even had a great time (oh, that the same might be said for my long-suffering congregants!). i always strive to be thought-provoking. if i were to be completely honest, though, i would have to confess that only occasionally (very occasionally) do i say something that might be called profound. the lord showed me something in 1 corinthians (forgive me if that sounds totally tbn) that i thought might be beneficial to those among my faithful readers who do not attend my church (both of you). paul wrote:
But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:8-9)
i told the story of the day i met my prospective wife’s parents for the first time. they lived in a place that, even in oklahoma, would be called “out in the country” (keep in mind that i am recently transplanted from suburban southern california). jaycene’s mom sliced a big fat tomato, fresh from her garden, and presented it to me. “do you like tomatoes” she asked? due to the fact that her daughter was smoking hot and i had designs on her, i responded, “why yes…yes i do.” the truth, though, is that i pick tomatoes off my cheeseburger. they look like something not quite done…like something still in its gestational period. but you’d better believe that i pasted on a smile and wolfed them down.
problem: guess what was on the menu every time i visited their home?
my convoluted point (and this is what i think god is showing me) is that, as a maturing believer, i do not have the freedom to do what i want. but i have the freedom to make mature choices. i chose to eat that nasty vegetable (fruit?) out of concern for the feelings of my hostess. my grandson, however, eats what he likes and throws what he doesn’t like on the floor. we excuse his antisocial behavior because he is immature. when he gets older, though, he will probably eat things he will not currently eat. and he will probably adjust his habits (partake of things he normally wouldn’t…pass on things that are technically “legal”) out of consideration for someone else. you see, maturity does not provide freedom–it affords us choices.
i contend that the objective of paul’s teaching was not to determine which side was right and which side was wrong, paul’s highest hope was to heal divisions and restore unity to the body.
so when we feel we have the freedom to ______________ (fill in the blank), let’s first ask ourselves: what is my motivation for doing what i’m about to do? is my attitude right? who might potentially be harmed by my actions? those are healthy questions…kingdom questions.
and i when i think about “your best life later,” those are the types of questions i want to be asking.