Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 11—Not Exercising Our Freedoms in the Name of Love

Where will your freedoms
lead others?
            As kids, we cannot wait until we get to things "our" way.  Your family may have been touched by an attitude of rebellion, but that is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about making choices that are not wrong.  I remember hearing one newlywed remark that she loved having her own kitchen where she could arrange it the way she likes it without having to argue with her mom about it.  Neither woman's method of organization was "wrong," but neither method satisfied the desires of both women.

            The world says we have the right to live our lives the way we want as long as we are not hurting anyone else.  Many will add the stipulation that your choices cannot be "bad" or "wrong" choices.  How can any American disagree with that reasoning?

            What does the Bible say?

            I Corinthians 8:9-13—"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."

            This passage does not make much sense unless you understand the conversation before these verses.  Basically, Paul is discussing a situation where some people were eating foods "sacrificed" to idols.  The strong Christians did not see anything "holy" or "sacred" with such food because they know the idols were powerless pieces of stone or wood.  They worshiped the only true "God, the Father, from who all things came" (v. 6) and knew He had nothing to do with these idols.  The food was simply food.

            However, the weaker Christians—possibly new converts from a group that formerly saw the idols as gods—felt like they would be sinning if they ate that food.  Of course, I could not find the verse I was looking for today, but somewhere in Scripture is says that, if you do something you believe is a sin (even if it would not otherwise be called a sin), then you have sinned.  In other words, if you do not know if God considers a certain behavior sinful, but you feel like it is and do it anyway; then you have sinned. 

            Now back to the passage above.  Paul knew he had the freedom (the right) to eat certain foods available to him without displeasing God.  Yet, he also knew that certain Christians in that area believed that eating that food would be the same as participating in idol worship.  For them, it would be a sin to eat it.  If Paul ate it in their presence, they may feel like they should copy him even if they felt they were sinning while doing it.  Therefore, Paul abstained from exercising his freedom to eat that food.  Unbelievably, he was even willing to never eat certain foods again if it would strengthen his weak brothers.  Why?  He knew it is better to go without something you may be entitled to than to lead someone else astray.  In other words, just because you are entitled to something does not mean you should exercise your right to take it or use it, especially if it may mislead others.  Let me share an example from my life.

            When my husband and I were first married, we wanted to go out and "do something"—like listen to music and maybe dance.  You may be opposed to dancing, but I do not feel any dancing I did in public crossed the line of being unacceptable.  Unfortunately, about the only places you can go for music are bars.  My husband and I do not drink, so we ordered a soft drink.  However, people walking by our table could not tell that our drinks were not spiked.  Living in a small community (even though we were in the next town), we knew many people there.  On one hand, it was a little amusing to see the shocked looks when people we knew saw us there.  Unexpectedly, the looks and conversation by those who stopped at a table seemed to shift.  Our presence seemed to put a stamp of "approval" on their night life.  Since I knew some of those people, I knew that a life of going to the bars had damaged their relationships and had led to even worse choices.  Although our behavior was not "sinful," we felt we were misleading others.  We never went back.

            Your Turn:  As you read my example, you may think we overreacted.  On the other hand, you may be condemning us for dancing, for listening to rock music, or for walking into the bar in the first place.  Guess what?  You do not have to draw any conclusions about what I did.  The question is:  what are you doing?  What "innocent" activities are you doing that could mislead others?  How are you explaining your behaviors to your children? 

            Perhaps your older children will have situations in their lives where this could be an issue but probably not younger children.  At this point, an evaluation of how you exercise your freedoms should be first on your agenda.  Then look at them from your children's point of view.  What do your children think they see?  Not what you are doing, but what do they think you are doing?  Are you giving them permission to sinful behavior by your non-sinful behavior? 

            This is a tough call.  I would not be surprised if, at this moment, you cannot think of anything you need to change or explain.  Stay an alert anyway.  Something may sneak up on you.  You may not know of any freedom that is causing a problem until you listen to comments someone else says.

            At one point, I was shocked and disappointed to learn someone I knew had made a sinful choice and who then used me as a reference point for what he/she did.  I did not make me feel any better to know that I had done nothing wrong.  Unfortunately, not knowing all the details, this other person perceived I was doing something else. 

            I do not know about you, but I definitely do not want my life to touch others or their families in this way.  Sure I want to have things "my way."  That tendency does not automatically go away when we stop being children.  Fortunately, as adults, we can make positive choices to not always exercise our freedoms and to make those choices in the name of love for those around us.

            If you would like more ideas on helping your children (and yourself) develop a Biblical worldview or to find out how to win a Wal-Mart gift card, go to the 31 Days Giveaway (Intro. Part II) post for more Touching Families blog links.  If you want to check out other 31 Days' topics, see The Nester.

*All verses quoted are from the New International Version:  THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


  1. Having a bad attitude (like being negative or judgmental) jumps out to me as something I tend to do but DO NOT want to pass on to Baby B. I need to change my attitudes so he doesn't learn that it is an acceptable behavior.

  2. It would be nice if God would make us into perfect beings when we reach adulthood, but He doesn't. While He is using you to train and mold Baby B, He is probably using Baby B to continue to train and mold you. Anyway, that's what I discovered He did (is doing) with me after I had kids. My kids think they see lots of imperfections; they just don't realize they are seeing the improved version!