Day 126: Offensive use of Freedom

Romans 14:16-21

Then don’t let your good be slandered, for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. Don’t overthrow God’s work for food’s sake. All things indeed are clean, however it is evil for that man who creates a stumbling block by eating. It is good to not eat meat, drink wine, nor do anything by which your brother stumbles, is offended, or is made weak.

Notice that Paul makes it very clear here that “all things indeed are clean.” He’s saying that, “Sure, you are right that you are free to eat anything, but you are wrong when you eat something that you know will be offensive to your Christian brother.” We can use our freedom in an offensive way. Paul isn’t saying that everything that can possibly be done is Ok to do. If that were the case it would be Ok to do harm to your brother. No, Paul is still talking about things that are optional; things that the Bible doesn’t clearly say are right or wrong for everyone.

Free people should use their freedom to bring peace, not to shock others or prove to them that things are Ok. Notice that Paul brings up drinking wine here. That’s still quite an issue today. Some think it is Ok, others say it isn’t at all. Pastors that I know have made a definite choice to no longer drink. They did this freely so that they can encourage others in the church. They don’t preach that it is wrong, they just choose to deny themselves for the sake of the people they care about.

Notice that Paul makes it clear that the important things are “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” There can be no doubt that these things are good and they are the important things to focus on. External things like food choices are just not that important.

Notice that proving your freedom to people may actually “overthrow God’s work.” God doesn’t mature believers at the same rate. It may take some believers many years to understand just how free they really are in Jesus. By causing our brother to stumble, we harm the good work that God is doing in his life and that is the wrong way to use freedom.