Saturday, August 13, 2011

AUGUST 13 "DON'T BE SO FREE TO EXERCISE YOUR FREEDOMS"

     DON'T be so free to exercise your freedoms lest you cause others to stumble, Paul warns us, what a lost concept this is. Actually it's not just a concept, it's a command. Paul goes on to write, "when you sin against your brothers by doing this and woundd their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. It's almost as if God makes sure it is phrased like this, "you sin against Christ" because otherwise we would not change our behaviour. If all the scripture said is that we sin against our brother, most would say, "oh well, to bad, he/she just needs to suck it up, grow up and mature. I believe God really knows human nature very well, doesn't he!
      I have been a Christian for 20 years and have yet to meet a Christian that practices this.  Have you?  I have met the opposite. Christians who refuse to stop drinking, because it is their right to drink and nowhere in the bible does it say having a drink is a sin. I have met Christians who rent and go to the movies every week-end, not once limiting themselves to what they would watch, lest it offend or cause a younger, weaker Christian to stumble. All I hear is, "it's my right and nowhere in the bible does it say I cannot...".  Truth be known, most don't really know what the bible does say on many issues and secondly, chances are even if it was written in the bible it would be dismissed as legalistic. Whatever we don't like we dismiss as legalistic or Old Testament.
     I once was given a pack of O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer for my birthday (why...I'm not sure) and it sat in my fridge, in the garage for about a month.  One Saturday, a young Christian and I were doing some landscaping at my house, here in the desert. We were quite thirsty standing in my garage trying to cool off. I thought, "let's see what we have in the fridge". All there was in the fridge to drink was the O'Douls. So I said, "we could drink this, it's all I have, don't worry, it's non-alcoholic".  The young Christian was scandalized that I would even want to drink beer, even if it was non-alcoholic.  The individual was so offended I said, "it's okay, I don't really care, give it to me" and I poured them out and threw the rest of the pack in the trash can. I thought to myself, "wow, this really threw him off, that's the last time I allow myself to be associated with even "non-alcoholic" beverage." Imagine the even greater damage had I had alcoholic beer in my fridge? Most Christians will say, "that's my right, and if he/she doesn't agree with it, that's their problem".  The issue with that attitude is that the bible says the complete opposite. Paul says, their problem know becomes your problem (so to speak) and if you don't do anything to curve your habits & supposed freedoms, that you are now sinning against God.
      Paul writes, "be careful, however, that the exercising of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak."  I think we've lost our tolerance for "the weak". I think we've lost our tolerance for people in general. I am noticing as time goes on that people are becoming more and more irritated by people, more so than ever before. This is to the point where people just want to co-exist with their families, maybe a few select friends, and THAT'S IT!.  And I'm speaking about those inside the church of Jesus Christ, not those outside the church!  The response of many, with the young/weak Christian that I mentioned earlier, probably would have been, "that's the last time I invite him over!"  Rather than curb our habits, for the benefit of another, we would rather just cut them off.  If you read the context of this whole passage, the predominant message is "brotherly love".  At the root of all the issues here is this, we are becoming very deficient in "brotherly love". This is a sign of the last days, "that men will become lovers of themselves" and that "the hearts of many will wax cold".  The warning here is deeper than, "have some Grace with people" the warning here is against our hearts turning cold toward one another.  The old commandment still remains, "by this they will know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love for one another".