Give Up My Liberty?

August 9, 2016

Rom 15:

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

Ever since the hippie movement we have moved into an age of the worship of self. It is all about me is the guiding principle of the age. People are about what is in it for them and makes them feel good or what advances their goal. This has infiltrated the Church in many ways because it has been adopted by many Christians. We have forgotten that Christianity is all about Jesus and the will of God, and others, not about us.

Many splits in churches are because somebody was unhappy about how things were done or something offended someone with influence. They then used that influence to try and work their own will. If there were not enough numbers to make it happen they lead their people off to start another church.

Doctrine is the real reason to split a church. If the leadership starts teaching error and no proper use of Matthew 18 effects a return to sound doctrine then those who know the truth should leave, but another church may not be needed as there may be several in the area teaching the truth. Seek those out and support them in the spirit of unity.

Many seek churches to just fulfill their needs. Sometimes that might be a particular type of music, age group, a coffee bar or something. Some think the Church is Welfare Part II. Doctrine is not important to people as it should be. In the church life, we have people at different maturity levels and often from many backgrounds. That means there could be many opinions of how something should be done or things that Christians should or should not do. Do we seek the good of the Body or our agenda?

In Romans 14 and 15 Paul is dealing with the merging of Jews and Gentiles into one Church, not gray areas as many teach. Now that is a monumental task since the cultures were as opposite as opposite can be. One very zealous for the Law of Moses and the rituals and traditions and the other having no such background and not interested in them once they heard the Gospel and especially since the Jerusalem Council released them from such observances. This created friction and the friction was generating great heat as it does still today.

He just spent all of chapter 14 telling the Church that stronger Christians were the ones who did not concern themselves about days and foods. Still no one was to judge the one on the other side or abuse the weaker brother. Tough he said the Gentiles had it right, he also told them to not cause their Jewish brethren to stumble. He said that he would not eat certain foods forever rather than cause his weaker brother to stumble.

He drives it home in these first three verses of chapter 15. Listen up strong people, you are not to bask in your strength and hurt people because you are right. You are to do what is necessary to help people get to where you are, not make them stumble and fall because you have to exercise your rights! It is not about you. You are not to please yourself. You are to edify your neighbor and bear the infirmities of the weak.

In Rome, that would have meant for people who were into bacon and ham sandwiches to eat them at home, but not bring them to the church suppers when you know your brother of Jewish background would be profoundly offended. A Jewish brother who saw his Gentile brother eating pork ribs through a restaurant window would not call everyone and talk about what an non-separated, worldly person that brother was to be doing that.

In our age, it might mean being careful of how you dress for church. You may feel you have liberty to wear something, but if it draws attention to you and distracts people from worship then save that outfit for another venue. When I was asked as pastor what the church dress code was I always said God and law enforcement frown on nudity, but otherwise I am open to discussion.

I have been at various services where I was embarrassed for the lady when she should have been embarrassed for herself, but I did not know her spiritual condition. She may have been lost or spiritually immature so I did not draw any attention to her as she was doing fine by herself in that respect.. I have seen men as well attired in things that may not be immodest, but were ostentatious at least. An early preacher named Chrysostom, also known as the golden orator, got quite rough on folks who got too gussied up for service.

Another thing is to not be age bigoted. Some young folks do not want to sit in the same service or Sunday School as those old people or the old people don’t want to sit with those young whippersnappers. Music is a big issue. Some won’t stay if the genre is not their genre. Sometimes a mark of maturity is to stretch you boundaries or get out of your comfort zone not lambaste something that is not your cup of tea. How are the older going to teach the younger if they are never together? How vain can a young person be if they think they do not need any mentoring from the old codger who has been down some roads the young need not go down and he could warn them?

While you have liberty, there are times when you are not at liberty to use it. When I visited a Mennonite church I wore dark pants, no tie, top button buttoned. I did not have a jacket as I was on vacation. Why, because that is what they dressed like and I did not want to offend them while I was there to learn about them. Karen sat on one side of the church and I sat on the other.

I could have exercised my right to wear a Western shirt and blue jeans and sit with my wife. Well, that would have been rude since I was a guest in their culture. It would also have disrupted their worship as they would have focused on me the rude intruder instead of the welcome guest. In the end, as they were walking out, one of the men kissed me on the cheek, as was their custom, and I returned it, which was out of my comfort zone. (2 Cor 13:12) Our Mennonite host at our B&B said I should be honored for he saw the Lord in me. Well worth the restraining of my liberty to hear that.

We need to get back to seeking God first and caring for one another rather than making everything about us.

Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
One of the reasons we meet is to exhort one another. I exhort whoever I can and someone will exhort me. I will be taken care of as I take care of others. JOY – Jesus, Others, You. When we keep that order it is amazing how what we think are our “needs” are exposed as unnecessary or selfish wants and our real needs are supplied. There is no joy if you put yourself ahead of Jesus or Others. May God grant us the strength to withhold our liberty for the sake of our brethren, the cause of Christ and the good of the Church. Maranatha!


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