When Freedom is Not Freedom

March 19, 2015

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One of the biggest challenges in cross cultural work is knowing what you can and cannot do. This happens both culturally and in religious settings.

The “gray areas” in Scripture are numerous. The do not’s are obvious, but there are many times when we are not sure if it is good or not to walk in a certain freedom we feel we have.

Paul gives three principles to follow which will help us know when freedom is not something we want to hold onto.

1. Give up your freedom if it stumbles another (1 Cor. 8:9) Even if something is not wrong, Paul says it becomes wrong if we cause others to stumble.

There are many times when we could do something, but should give it up for the sake of another. Issues of alcohol, music, dress, and many cultural things come to mind.

2. We lay down our freedom for the sake of the gospel. If by doing something, we hinder someone else hearing the gospel, Paul says don’t do it. 1 Corinthians 9:12 tells us “not to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel.”

One of my outreaches took me to Russia during which we spent 10 days on a train going coast to coast. During this time we did all sorts of spiritual exercises such as praying, reading the Bible, and worship. After awhile, we also played cards. Later when sharing our faith we were told we were not Christians because we gambled! (no gambling was happening).

This was early in the trip, but we had a choice. Flaunt our freedom or lay it down for the sake of the gospel. We put away the cards and were later able to be people come to the Lord during our train trip. 4318806632_eb07ff6430

Freedom to play cards was not worth hindering the gospel.

3. Laying down freedom for your own growth. Paul says, “All things are lawful but not all are beneficial” (1 Cor.10:23).

There may be some things you are permitted to do, but really do not help you grow and mature. Lay your freedom down for the sake of your own growth.

We are faced with a choice. Hold on to our freedom and be unwilling to give it up. This choice prefers selfishness over others, the gospel, and even our own benefit.


True freedom is when you are willing to give it up.

Being unwilling to give up our freedom for the sake of another of the gospel shows we are not free.

We can be in bondage to our freedom.

Paul sums up the entire message to the Corinthians by telling them to make love their aim.(1 Cor. 16:14)

Love should guide our freedom and when appropriate, it directs us to give up the same freedom.

Photo credit: Shackled via photopin (license)

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God

4 responses to When Freedom is Not Freedom

  1. Lavern Melson March 19, 2015 at 22:41

    Chris…..this is amazing !I have been thinking along these same lines for several weeks.How much do we really love the lost and are we willing to lay things aside that may keep us from touching their lives for the Lord.How much do we love our brothers and sisters in the body when we flaunt our freedoms in our dress or alcohol use or any numbers of things that might cause a brother or sister struggling with those issues in their live to stumble and fall.Are we willing to let go of some of our “freedoms”?Your example of the cards was very interesting.I find myself cringing at times over the language used by Christians or the constant talking about their partying and alcohol use on FB pages when I know that their are many within our body and within the FB site that have had in the past or are now struggling with these things in their lives.We have freedoms but at what cost to many others that are within the sphere of our lives.We truly need to go to the Lord and seek wisdom and insight and be willing to lay aside some things out of love for the Lord and others .Thanks Chris as usual your thoughts provoke one to think further about where each of our lives are at and our walk with Him…..Lavern

  2. We get so caught up about “our rights”. As servants of God, we have none really. We need to realize that our choices are more than stumbling blocks. They are sin. “Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ.”
    1 Cor. 8:12 At times I think we take the word “stumble” too lightly, as if it is their fault – but the sin is held accountable to us.

  3. Chris…….Just the word I needed for this day and for His purposes.

  4. Chris, I love your thoughts on this topic. It’s something I’ve often thought about. Especially number 1.

    With that thought, how far do we take it? You mentioned alcohol, dress, music… Could it extend to eating, work, etc?