“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12
Paul wrote this to the disciples in the city of Corinth as a part of a larger case he was making about their acceptance of sin in their church family. In the quote above, he was cutting to the heart of many of their issues: liberty without love. Disciples of Jesus enjoy such a unique liberty to truly and fully live, but that liberty can be misunderstood and abused. Some of the Corinthian believers seemed to think that, because of the freedom disciples have in Christ from the structures of the Old Law and from God’s wrath, they could do anything they wanted. They claimed the “right” to do anything because they were covered by God’s grace.
Paul very wisely pointed out the error of their thinking with his own additions to their mantra about rights. To paraphrase: “Sure, you have liberty to do things, but as a disciple of Jesus, you’re meant to do that which is beneficial to God’s kingdom and to others”; “Sure, you have liberty to do things, but you’re meant to have self-control so that only Christ’s Spirit controls you, not your fleshly desires.” He had to bring balance to their celebration of freedom by reminding them of their obligations to the Master Jesus.
We enjoy great freedoms and rights as American citizens and even more so as disciples of the great Liberator, Jesus Christ. We are no longer bound to live by the Law of Moses, but have been set free to live in the fullness of love. Our danger, though, is in fixing our eyes on our rights rather than on our calling to love. We are tempted to do what so many do in our culture, which is to demand that our rights be honored and that we receive our due. The beauty of denying self and taking up our crosses as we follow Jesus is that we are free from the need to demand anything for ourselves. We enjoy our freedom, yes, but we do so by using it to love our God and those around us. As Paul so clearly put it:
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13
Peter agreed. He put it this way:
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” 1 Peter 2:16.
As you live your blessed and beautiful life today, Disciple, I encourage you to meditate on Paul’s and Peter’s words. In making your decisions, think about what is beneficial and not just about what is allowed. Consider what your decisions say about what might be in control of you. This kind of thoughtful reflection will be a powerful tool in your training to become like Jesus. It is true that Jesus never broke God’s law, but that is partly because He was concerned with doing more than keeping the rules. He was out to benefit God and others and to be mastered by His Father’s will alone. As we adopt that mindset with Him, we will find that we are “keeping the rules” as a matter of course and finding the joy of true freedom in the process.
Accepted by Christ, the rejected One,