Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rules and rights

My best friend in high school couldn’t go to movies.

“I don’t know why exactly,” she told me once. “But our family just waits til the movie shows up on TV and then we watch it.”

Devin couldn’t play cards when he was growing up and so his favorite card game today is Rook, because it was not considered evil. He doesn’t know why, either.

I’ve heard about orthodox Jews paying someone to trip light switches on the Sabbath so that they don’t do any work that day. I know the Pharisees of ancient times had involved explanations so that people didn’t walk too far and break the Sabbath rest.

I’ve working my way through 1 Corinthians right now, where Paul responded to questions by a church plant in ancient Corinth. There was a stew of Jews, Greeks, Romans, pagans who had discovered Jesus and were trying to figure out how that all worked within a church.

They asked practical questions: Can we eat meat sacrificed to idols? Is it better to serve God as a single person? And, if so, should we leave our spouse?

They wanted rules. Couldn’t Paul just give them specifics for living?

Paul gave them principles. On the question of meat sacrificed to idols, he acknowledged that idols are nothing. Having recently left pagan practices behind, some in Corinth were uncomfortable eating sacrificial meat.

If it didn’t bother me, was it proper for me to indulge my freedom?

It was, Paul confirmed, but not if that freedom tore at another’s faith. My freedom was not the trump card in decisions; love was.

“Love builds up,” Paul told the church. The principle was simple: my choices must not hinder another’s spiritual life.

I might have to trim my freedom to keep another from falling. Paul didn’t give them a set of rules for purchasing or not purchasing meat in the marketplace. He gave them principles to use.

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 1 Cor 9:19

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