Everything is Permissible
The question, again, is, how do we do that? I’m thinking that God gives us some advice in scripture… "Everything is permissible"-- but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"-- but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). Ok, this sounds like some freedom here! Everything is permissible! Woo hoo! Everything! But, not everything is beneficial, not everything is constructive. Well, ok, I get it. Now what do we do? How do we know what we can do? Sounds like a rule is coming, a restriction of my freedom perhaps? Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Hmmm…If I understand correctly, I can do anything I want to as long as it is beneficial, constructive, and for the good of others.
Think about that. Kind of a good way to think about things, isn’t it? I can do anything as long as the motivation is to help someone else. Let’s run through some examples and decide if they fit in to what God wants me to do:
- Have a beer with a neighbor who has just lost his wife to cancer.
- Skip church service to spend time mentoring a fatherless teen age boy.
- Take a non-believer to an R-rated movie that has a spiritual theme.
What do you think? I’m not going to give you my answers because there are always way more things to consider than what meets the surface, but I hope that at least we can start to think of things that maybe we had considered as out of bounds because of artificial boundaries we have placed on them. Think about what Jesus did. He spent most of His time here on earth with tax collectors and sinners (“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?") (Matthew 9:9-11)
This phrase always interested me; tax collectors and sinners. A couple of things about it peak my twisted interest. First of all, there is a segregation of tax collectors from the sinners, but they are included together. Why? Were the tax collectors like super-sinners that required extra attention and recognition? Or, were the other sinners so embarrassed of the tax collectors that they didn’t want to be included in their number? Don’t know. Anyway, the point is Jesus spent His time with the people who He knew needed help and that they themselves knew they needed help. They knew they had issues; sin in their life and He was there to give them hope. He was there interacting with them, showing them what love is.
W.E. Vine, the great theologian wrote, “love can only be seen by the action it prompts.” Jesus showed His love to all, but especially those in need. Jesus said that the sick need a doctor, not the healthy. So how can we use our freedom like Jesus did? For the benefit of others? How can we reach those who need to be reached if we aren’t free to climb a little bit, or to go places we don’t usually go, or meet with people we don’t usually meet with? A church Bible study is a great thing but usually the people who attend already go to church.
We need to use our freedom for the good of others, and for the glory of God. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) We have this freedom to eat or drink, to hang out with tax collectors and sinners, and we need to use this freedom for the good of these people as well as for the glory of God. This sounds unique in scripture, but is it? Jesus said the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind (whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God), and the second most important commandment is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself (nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others). Is it just me or is there a connection here? I believe that the freedom that Jesus provides to us is the single most important thing we have in living a life for God. Because of this freedom we don’t have to worry about what other people think about us if we are interacting with the undesirable people in our world to try and win them to Christ. Because of this freedom we can love a murderer, a rapist, an addict, a homosexual, and any other form of offensive sinner there is because we, my friend, are in the same boat. We are all in a boat being beaten by the stormy sea of sin and the only chance of survival is Jesus. We can pretend that we don’t have issues or that we are better than some other category of sinner because we dress nicer, have a better haircut, only the appropriate piercings, and go to church, but God sees through that, and if we are honest with ourselves we see through that too. So let’s use our freedom. Let’s do things just because it does someone else some good. Let’s do things for the glory of God. Let’s let our love and the freedom we have as followers of Christ to prompt some actions that change people’s lives forever.
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