2 Chronicles 29:18-36; Romans 14:10-15:4; Psalms 25:1-7; Proverbs 10:19
NT: “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean. For if your brother or sister is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy, by what you eat, someone for whom Christ died. Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit… So then, let us pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another… Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves. Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” (Romans 14:14-17, 19; 15:1-3a CSB)
There is liberty in Christ, for when we are in Christ, we are in grace and no longer under the law. Even Jesus said that it is not what goes into someone’s stomach that makes him unclean, but what is already in his heart. Our cleanliness, purity and holiness comes from Christ within us, not from all the dos and don’ts pressed upon us from the outside. However, the people who make up the family of God come from all sorts of backgrounds and have different ideas of what is permissible or not permissible. Also, the Lord, as we follow Him, sets different boundaries for each one of us depending on the weaknesses of our flesh and the things that controlled us before we came to Christ. Just because we may feel at liberty to do something, it doesn’t mean that everyone in the body of Christ feels at liberty to do something. In the same vein, we should not condemn others for not walking in the liberties that we are personally at peace with… and we should not pressure them into doing something that they consider to be a sin. For example, I may have a conviction against drinking wine. I am of legal age to drink, and there is nothing illegal about drinking wine in moderation. In fact, there are even scriptures that encourage the drinking of wine for health purposes… but I may have a personal conviction against it. If someone comes along and pressures me into drinking wine against my conscience and conviction because they say I am free to do it and am giving into weakness if I don’t – then that person has caused me to sin. Instead of pressing for equal liberty, we who are in Christ should pursue what promotes peace and encouragement to others. We who are at liberty are obligated through love to temporarily give up our liberties for the sake of those who are “weaker.”
One contemporary example of this is mask wearing. The COVID pandemic introduced mask wearing as an issue. There are those who feel at liberty to not wear a mask, and they believe that those who are wearing masks are giving into fear. Then those who do wear masks believe that those who are not wearing masks are insensitive. According to this passage of scripture, what should the loving disciple of Christ do? The non-mask wearer should pursue peace and understand his obligation to those who do not share in his liberty by voluntarily wearing a mask around those who are not free to go maskless. The mask-wearers should pursue peace by not condemning their fellow maskless brothers and sisters in Christ. The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, or masks and no masks, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So be led by the Holy Spirit, not your preferences.
Psalms: “Lord, I appeal to you. My God, I trust in you. Do not let me be disgraced; do not let my enemies gloat over me. No one who waits for you will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced. Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; I wait for you all day long.” (Psalms 25:1-5 CSB)
The most sure way to pursue peace in every situation is to first pursue the Lord and trust in His leadership. King David did not want to be disgraced… he didn’t want to unknowingly do something that would disgrace his name and character, which would them bring unwarranted disgrace to the name of the Lord. So David said to God, “I trust in You… before I act and speak, I wait for You. Teach me Your ways and guide me on Your paths.” We need to have that same humble dependence on the Lord through the leading of His Holy Spirit. If we trusted and followed the Lord in everything, we would be saved from disgrace and unwittingly hurting our fellow brothers and sisters.
Proverbs: “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent.” (Proverbs 10:19 CSB)
If we don’t allow the fruit of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in our lives through self-control over the things we say, we will inevitably fall into sin through our words… we will inevitably say something that will hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ or put a stumbling block in their way that will cause them to sin. For us to pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another, we must allow the Holy Spirit to put a limiter on our lips.
Prayer: Lord, my desire is to be someone who brings honor to Your name and edifies my fellow brothers and sisters. I don’t want to be someone who is disgraceful… who tears down my brothers and sisters because they don’t have the same liberties and convictions that I have. As I place my faith in You and present myself worshipfully to You, grace me with Your Holy Spirit; and allow Him to lead me on the paths that promote peace and grace me with self-control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.