Summary: A mature Christian knows the limits of his liberty in Christ and understands that love is the measure of that liberty.
In this chapter of the Bible we are introduced to Christian Liberty and the responsibility of properly exercising it.
How does our liberty impact those around us in the church and our culture?
When are we free to do as we please knowing that what we are doing is not a sin?
Is the Christian life a bunch of does and don’ts or is it more complicated than that?
St. Paul is writing to the Saints in Corinth Greece who are new to the Christian faith.
In earlier chapters he has referred to them as babes in the faith.
On this occasion St. Paul is explaining to them how conflicts in culture can lead to spiritual confusion for new Christians.
God has a standard of living that no human being can meet other than Jesus of course.
That standard is not – do the best you can or do a little better than your neighbour or do better than your pastor.
No, God’s standard for Christian living is “be Holy because I am Holy” 1 Peter 1:16 NIV
Now that is a very high standard to which we must aspire but how do we get there from here?
Only by the blood of Jesus my friends.
The issue here is not that we should be pinned down by legality.
Dr. J. Vernon McGee says it this way…
“There is no point in arguing whether something is right or wrong. It is a question of the effect upon the weak brother. It is not a question of knowledge. All things are lawful for me. The liberty of the Christian is not pinned down by legality. He is not circumscribed by rules of conduct. His liberty is limited by his love. His motivation should be not to offend the brother but to be a blessing to him. This is how to determine Christian conduct. That is the motivation for Christian conduct. My knowledge can tell me that it is perfectly all right for me to do something, but my love for the weak brother will keep me from doing it.”
You see the meat that was on sale was meat that had been sacrificed to a pagan god.
It was the street meat of its time.
When they sacrificed it to a pagan god they did not burn it all up.
They simply cut up what was left and presented the spirit of the animal to the spirit of the pagan god.
The left overs were sold to the public.
They were usually the better cuts of meat since the animals sacrificed would have been good animals that pleased the pagan gods.
Some people in Corinth bought it in order to honor the pagan gods while Christians were buying it because it was good meat.
Established members of the church were right out in the open in the street with the pagans buying this recently sacrificed meat.
Looking on were the new members.
Some thought these established members were sinning by purchasing something that was otherwise detestable in their mind.
St. Paul is making the church in Corinth aware of how weaker Christians see us when we interact with our fallen culture.
Guilt by association if you will.
When we do everything the world does the way the world does it - it suggests that the world’s way is not so bad.
Such rubbing of elbows by Christians with society is confusing to new Christians who are trying to live to the Jesus standard of things.
We need to stop here and ask ourselves - are we confusing people about the standard to which we are living?
A mature Christian knows that he does not believe in any other god other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
A mature Christian knows the limits of his liberty in Christ and understands that love is the measure of that liberty.
So when someone sees a respected Christian apparently compromising Christian values for cultural values – people notice that and it stands out.
It also creates confusion and conflict and doubt for those who do not understand that we can exercise Christian liberty in cultural situations.
It’s not that we can’t do something that our culture is doing - it’s should we do it and how will it be perceived.
Christians have liberty to be a part of the culture but it must be measured against the circumstances.
Pastor Chris Appleby of Melbourne Australia says this…
“This has been a problem for countless Christians since the days of the Puritans and the Methodists, who shunned pubs because of the evils of drunkenness associated with them. As a result the people who congregated in the pubs were cut off from the opportunity of meeting Christians who might tell them about Jesus. They lost the opportunity of seeing that Christians were just ordinary people like them, people who could enjoy life without the excesses associated so often with alcohol. In fact just the opposite impression was given. Christians were seen as strange people who never went near the pub; wowsers who didn’t know how to have a good time; judgmental people who looked down on ordinary people as though they were sinners for enjoying themselves.”