Romans

Day 33: The Law of Liberty

Romans 14:1-12, Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 10:19-25

 

A Christian is to honor God with all the decisions he makes. This means our decisions—what to wear, eat, watch, etcetera—should not be first and foremost about what we like or want, but about what God likes or wants. In whatever we do, “we live to the Lord” (Romans 14:8; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Simply put, personal preference cannot be the ultimate arbiter of our decisions. We may like how certain clothes look or feel, and that’s good; but the first question we must ask is, “Will this honor God?” We may like certain foods for their nutrition or taste, but the primary consideration is, “Will this be pleasing to the Lord?”

Now, I have good news for you: God is pleased with a LOT of different clothes and foods. From togas to t-shirts, He gives us great liberty. The same is true of food. You can go for the green smoothie or hit up Five Guys for a juicy hamburger. Both are well within the scope of God’s pleasure.

Of course, as you make these decisions, principles of modesty, stewardship, freedom, and wisdom are in play. Paul reminds us elsewhere that, though something may be permissible, it is not always profitable (1 Corinthians 10:23). You have things to think about when you pick out that garment or order from that menu. Your life is not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). In all our decisions, we must honor God and love those around us.

But remember, it’s a problem if we begin to judge others by our own particular convictions and choices when the Lord has given them freedom. Or worse, when we demand that others conform to our convictions when Scripture demands we extend liberty.

Let me go back to the food illustration. Maybe today you’re munching on carrots and celery for lunch out of a commitment to be a good steward your physical body (Matthew 25:14-30), while your fellow Christian coworker across the table downs a cheeseburger as an expression of freedom and a celebration of the cleanliness of all foods (Acts 9:10-16). Which one of you is right? Don’t answer—it’s a trick question. You both have a biblical basis for the particular choices you’ve made, and you can both honor the Lord in the decisions you’ve made. What’s essential is that you are “fully convinced in your own mind” (Romans 14:5) and that you open-heartedly welcome the other’s convictions as well (Romans 14:1-3).

We live this way because God has already “welcomed” both carrot and burger eaters into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is only through grace, not perfect decision-making, that we will be able to stand at the end of time (Romans 14:4). And so we follow St. Augustine’s old dictum, “Love God and do what you will.”

When Jesus is the true unifying point of community life, wine connoisseurs sit down with teetotalers and there’s not a hint of judgment. Meat eaters break bread with vegetarians, and neither looks down their nose at the other.

When we’ve truly tight-gripped the gospel, we gain the liberty to hold many other things loosely, or freely. And that’s just how God would have it.

Written by Nate Shurden