Non-Essentials: Thoughts on Christian Liberty

In my daily Bible readings, I’ve been working through the book of Romans. It has taken me quite a long time to work through simply because sometimes I would only focus on specific phrases in a verse. For instance, I was recently studying through chapter 12 and specifically the marks of a true Christian in which Paul gives several commands for Christians to obey. Because of those short commands, I would focus and meditate on one per day while working through chapter 12. One day was the command, “Abhor what is evil.” The next day would be the next phrase, “Hold fast to what is good.” Of course, while working through the book of Romans, I have approached chapter 14 and have actually almost finished it within the past month or so.

Since reading, studying, and meditating on the phrases of Romans 14, I have noticed a lot of “issues” being posted on Facebook that I believe are Romans 14 issues. What specifically am I talking about? Christian Liberty.

“13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

Romans 14:12-15, ESV

I don’t want to get into any specific issues with this blog post. However, I believe there are some vital principles in this passage of Scripture that demand study and meditation.

When we come to Romans 14, the chapter begins with the commands to not pass judgment among the brethren regarding beliefs of opinion. Paul says, “It is before his own master that he stands or falls (v.4).” He says to not pass judgment then declares to not be a stumbling block to others. Whether someone agrees with you on non-essential issues here is not really relevant to Paul’s message. Paul says, whether they believe similarly or not, do not cause them to stumble. He writes in chapter 15 encouraging the Roman church to live in as much Christ-likeness as possible. He writes in verse 5, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.”

I see this and look at some in the church who simply are not “living in such harmony.” I recently saw a Facebook post of someone who put a picture up that triggered a non-essential issue debate over the post. Some 500+ comments were made regarding the issue in which was blatantly obvious through the post, and not all of them were words of encouragement and kindness. I believe this type of issue to be a Romans 14 issue. Not everyone agreed with the activity of the post, but not everyone disagreed either.

Leroy Forlines has great things to say about this passage of Scripture. He says,

What we are to refrain from is that which may do serious spiritual detriment to one another. As Picirilli says, “Paul is not referring to something that one’s brethren will merely dislike but something that threatens the brother’s spiritual progress, that may make him stumble into sin.”

F. Leroy Forlines, Commentary on Romans

Regarding Christian liberty, I believe it focuses more on others than it does on ourselves. Christian liberty is what we limit ourselves from doing so everyone we come in contact with will know we are a child of the true, living God. Christian liberty does not give us an out to do what we want. It simply gives us freedom to strive for holiness and righteous living, while encouraging the “weaker brethren” to do the same.

To sum up, I love what Paul says in 14:17. He writes,

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Forlines comments,

“Joy is greatly dampened whenever Christians get involved in squabbles over matters where the principles of this chapter are involved.”

Because of our liberty, because of our freedom in Christ, because of our commitment to righteous living (sanctification), it is imperative for us not to squabble over matters that simply have no salvific value. This is not to say that our beliefs about them should subside or not be vocalized. It simply means that our main focus should be obtaining spiritual maturity in Christ and longing for our brothers and sisters to do the same. And sometimes spiritual maturity means going/doing without so your brothers and sisters will not stumble back into a habit of sinfulness.

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