Day 36

The Law of Love

from the Romans reading plan


Romans 14:13-23, 1 Corinthians 8:8-13, Ephesians 4:25-32, Ephesians 5:1-2

Remember when you first got your driver’s license? All that freedom, all that road, all that speed. You could go anywhere and do anything—except break curfew or give rides to other teens or to girls or speed or run red lights or take long road trips. Freedom has its limits, at least it ought to, especially to protect the less mature.

In Romans 14 we see a scenario in which freedom and limits are again in tension. Now that the Old Testament laws of cleanliness and purification were in the past, it meant that any food or drink was pure, so people were digging in. But this caused issues for other believers still more closely connected to the old ways. Their consciences were pricked by this new freedom—it felt wrong to eat or drink these new things, or even be in proximity to them.

So on one side we have people exercising their freedom in Christ. On the other side we have people abiding by their consciences. Both good things, but in tension.

Paul brings the tension back to the heart. He points out that food and drink are not the issue. The issue is love. People on one side were prioritizing their freedom above the hearts of fellow believers and causing them to struggle. He points out that, clean or not, if food or drink is seen as questionable by someone, then for that person to consume it would be sin. The liberated person should set aside their freedom temporarily in order to show love.

The church is a body and a family. When one part works in conflict with another, it breaks down. One person’s freedom in Christ cannot be a license to push another person into conflict with their conscience. All actions, attitudes, and convictions in the church must be done and held in such a way as to build up and support. They must pursue love.

The self-sacrifice of setting aside liberties is an indication of spiritual maturity. It shows that love for brothers and sisters is of greater value than one’s own freedom or pleasure.

Believers are no longer under the old law, but neither can we grab our freedoms and revel in them for our own happiness at the expense of others. We are free because of God’s profound love and grace through Jesus, so love and grace and Christlikeness must be the marks of our freedom.

Sometimes we will revel and eat or drink to our great pleasure. Other times we will sacrifice our freedoms for the sake of our brothers and sisters who have yet to discover the guilt-free freedom of Jesus. This is true maturity proven by love.

Written by Barnabas Piper

Post Comments (4)

4 thoughts on "The Law of Love"

  1. Adam Jones says:

    Spiritual freedom is a great thing and a gift from God. I’m in the middle on these things. I enjoy the freedom that Jesus gives to us through his sacrifice, however I also sometimes judge others on their use of the same freedom. Help me to live in Christ’s freedom and to enjoy it but to also love my brother and their freedom too.

  2. Timothy Hoover says:

    Coming out of a background of legalism, this is a good reminder for me. I have a lot of friends and family that would be offended by a lot of the things that I do. Even if I know they have no Scriptural support for their “convictions,” they still see it as sin.

  3. Chris Greenwood says:

    Romans 14:13-the end of the chapter

    “One person’s freedom in Christ cannot be a license to push another person into conflict with their conscience. All actions, attitudes, and convictions in the church must be done and held in such a way as to build up and support. They must pursue love.

    The self-sacrifice of setting aside liberties is an indication of spiritual maturity. It shows that love for brothers and sisters is of greater value than one’s own freedom or pleasure.” – Barnabas Piper

    The second half of Romans 14 gives practical counsel and applications on how to once again raise the bar as both an individual and as a church. Sacrificing what I want to do for the sake of someone else without being frustrated about it or judging them along the way are indeed markers of maturity and practical signs of what it looks like to love people like Jesus. One of the humbling realities of my walk with Jesus is how easily I can be walking well with Jesus one moment only to find myself falling into frustration or judgement the next.

    Lord, help me to be ever more consistent in the way I walk out my life and my faith each day. Please grant me wisdom to live and compassion to love as You do. May the Your Spirit grant me the power to do both. In Jesus Name, Amen.

  4. Andrew Flack says:

    Keeping this in mind, this has not only shed some light on what we should let in our lives, but also on how our actions can strongly impact those who may not have the same beliefs as us. For me, I have always been a freedom user. I’ve never minded secular music (as long as it wasn’t affecting me), I’ve never worried much about drinking, and I’ve never really worried much about television programs that aren’t the cleanest. These are all examples of things that can affect some, but don’t with others. So as someone who isn’t affected, it is vital for me to watch out for those who aren’t comfortable with these things. Whether it’s siblings, friends, acquaintances, et cetera. It can affect someone greatly in which they could either question your stance in your relationship with Christ, or they could be weak in their faith and not know much yet. So this could lead them to believe that they can do these things irrelevant on if they feel bad about it or not. Thank you God for this reminder that I have needed in my life.

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