1 Corinthians 10:23-24. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
Paul is quoting the Corinthians back to the Corinthians again. Their argument was “all things are lawful.” In essence they were saying, “We’re super spiritual and we have spiritual knowledge, and we know that we are free and not under the law, therefore we can do anything we want.”
And Paul does not dispute this logic. But he does say it is short sighted. It is not helpful. It falls short of your union with Christ, and Christ living through you. It falls short of the law of love.
Yes, Corinthians, you are free to eat the meat sacrificed to idols. No, you are not under the law. Yes, everything is yours to enjoy- the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (10:26). But, more importantly, you are free to love and seek the good of your neighbor (10:24). That is what “to live is Christ” really means. We give up our rights for the sake of the other. For the sake of the church. Our mission is to build up others. To build up the church. Our aim is to be helpful not just correct.
But we must do that within the framework of the individual consciences of each believer. Do we want all Christians to have a strong conscience? Yes. Do we want Christians to not be bound by petty scruples? Yes. Do we want all Christians to stop obsessing about being right all the time. Yes. Do we want all Christians to be known for what they are for, more than what they are against? Yes. Do we want all Christians to stop policing each other and asking questions about where they got their meat (insert your own modern example here)? Yes. Please God, yes. But this takes time, and patience, and gentleness, and grace.
Christian, you must learn this incredible truth: you are free in Christ, but your freedom is bounded by love. Because without this love you are not truly free- you will be in bondage to your own selfish desires. Therefore, we must learn to use our freedom as an opportunity to be a servant. A slave even. A slave to one another and so to Christ. We must seek the growth and transformation of that other believer. You know, the one in your small group, or Sunday School class. The one you are discipling up close, or the one who is watching you from afar.
Isn’t that what Christ did for you? He gave up his rights for your good. He died for you while you were still a sinner (Rom. 5:8). He came down to your level and saved you. And ever since that day he has gently guided and taught and transformed you into his likeness with great care and patience. That is the Christ that is in you, using you to do the same for others.
Are you living your life in a false “freedom” that allows you to do whatever you want? Or can you see yourself using your freedom to love others and help them grow in Christ? Are you the Christian with a “weak” conscience? Do you try to force your scruples on everyone else? Can you think of an example of something in your life that is “allowed” but not “helpful” to your church community, friends, or family? How does your union with Christ empower you to live a life of freedom bounded by love?