I see some awfully sharp-tongued, critical — even hateful — commentary posted into social media venues by conservative Christians who are standing for biblical truth before a society in serious denial about its rebellion and brokenness. I’ve posted some very strong words myself.
But this Scripture passage speaks to me this morning, asking me what my (our) real goal is and whether what I (we) post actually accomplishes that goal. Paul is writing about whether it’s OK for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to idols (demons), but the principle is very challenging if you apply it to your freedom to declare strong convictions in public venues:
Why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it? Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. That is the plan I follow, too. I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:29b-33 NLT)
“Why should my freedom be limited?” is an especially powerful question for us at a time when a vocal minority in society is hell-bent on doing precisely that — for example, your freedom to affirm the biblical truth that same-sex intimacy is sinful because it is a rejection of God’s intention in creating us male and female, or the truth that human life in the womb is more valuable than convenience, gender preference, or a whole host of other rationalizations for destroying an unborn child. We could talk about the effort to limit a peaceful citizen’s right and duty to keep and bear arms, or a Christian’s right to not be forced to pay for practices s/he considers evil.
It’s easy to identify ways this society is trying to limit freedom. Conservative Christians in many other countries face far worse challenges.
But the question I’m pondering this morning isn’t “Don’t I have a right to believe as I choose and to speak freely about those convictions in whatever venues I choose?” The answer to that, for a U.S. citizen, is clearly “Yes.” Paul’s reply, however, is back up in v.23: “You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is beneficial.”
It’s one thing for someone else to limit my freedom; it’s quite another for me to freely choose to limit it myself.
Paul goes on to say that, whatever we do, we must do it for the glory of God. He instructs us to not give offense to anyone, inside the church or out. He tells us to follow his example and try to please everyone in everything we do.
Can you say this about your Facebook or blog posting? — “I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them so they may be saved.”
Yes, the Gospel is offensive to people whose eyes are blinded by sin. Yes, we must speak the truth. But we must be sure to speak the truth in love. And we must remember our goal is the same as God, who does not want anyone to be destroyed in eternity, but for all to experience new birth. (2 Peter 3:9)
How would my (your) social media postings change if I (you) set out to not give offense to anyone, tried in fact to please everyone in what I (you) post? What would they look like if I (you) were doing what is best for them, so they might be saved, instead of doing what I (you) like?
There is one really good reason to limit your freedom: so someone who hates Jesus and his Way could become your brother or sister in Christ.