Some of you may be dreading the point of this post. Buckle up, buttercup.
Yesterday morning we had a different speaker preaching, but he taught nothing less than the truth that is always taught from the Bible. He focused on 1 Corinthians (the whole book), but specifically chapters 8-14 where Paul was telling the Christians in this church about rights and responsibilities. God has given us rights to do many things, and God has also dispensed to us an obligation to share the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:17). There are times when we must limit our rights to more fully be free to share God’s gospel (1 Corinthians 9:18-19 & 27).
But sometimes we insist on our rights, and so abuse them. How do we know if we are abusing our rights? When your rights hinder your responsibility, you are abusing your rights! Remember that this is not about you. This isn’t about your rights. This is about others! If you are not concerned with what is good for others, then your focus is not where it should be.
In chapter 8, Paul gave an example about the meat used in idol (or rather demon) worship that was sold at a discount. Here we see that sometimes what we think is an amoral or non-moral issue, is actually very much a moral issue to God. Further along in the other chapters we see that, regardless of whether or not something is technically moral, or allowable, if your focus is only on what is good for you and on what you can do, your focus is wrong. God wants us to think about what is good for others.
In chapter 9, Paul outlined the the things he literally had the rights to do, the things he had the ability and authority to do, based on Biblical principles. But he also wrote that he limited some if those rights for the sake of the gospel. Sometimes you don’t do something that you are allowed to do, simply because it would otherwise hinder the gospel. The speaker gave an example: Say you have a Jewish friend and one day he says he wants to ask you about Jesus over lunch tomorrow. You go talk to your pastor and ask him to help you prepare to tell this man about Jesus using the Old Testament, you study everything you should know, and probably stay up half the night preparing yourself for every question, putting sticky notes in your Bible. You go to a diner for lunch the next day, and the time has come to place your order. Your Jewish friend points out something on the menu and asks if it is kosher. He is told yes, and now it is your turn to order. You weren’t really thinking about what is kosher and what is not, and your eye falls to a BLT club sandwich on the menu. Now Jewish people do not eat certain things, one of which is pork. Should you order the BLT?
No you should not. This is not legalism, this is for the sake – for the good – of the Jewish man and his reception of the gospel. You have the right to order the BLT, but what effect will this have on your Jewish friend? You who claim to be knowledgeable in God’s plan for humanity’s redemption, and say that Christianity comes forth out of Judaism, how do you think this Jewish man will take it if you are eating bacon while you talk about the (Jewish) Messiah? You have a responsibility to God, and to this man He loves, to share the gospel.
There are times when limiting your rights will make you more free for your responsibilities, and when you willingly do this, you have rewards waiting (1 Corinthians 9:16-18 & 24-25).