When Your Christian Liberty Becomes a Sin

We are called to let love drive our decisions with a specific goal in mind.

In many Christian circles, Christian liberty can be taken for granted and we can easily forget what it is all about. Our liberty can easily be used in a way that is harmful. But how can we know if we’ve crossed “the line”? Can drinking alcohol or eating meat be considered wrong before God? Scripture provides a way through such difficult issues with one overarching purpose—love for God and each other. 

 

When it comes to questions of love and wisdom, it can be difficult to know what to do. What should we do when it comes to the issues that many people disagree about? Actions or habits that are not explicitly condemned or condoned in Scripture are difficult to think through (e.g. drinking, smoking, or who to vote for). This topic is what Christians have categorized as Christian liberty.

In many Christian circles, Christian liberty can be taken for granted and we can easily forget what it is all about. Our liberty can easily be used in a way that is harmful. But how can we know if we’ve crossed “the line”? Can drinking alcohol or eating meat be considered wrong before God? Scripture provides a way through such difficult issues with one overarching purpose—love for God and each other.

Love is the most basic expression of the Christian’s faith. At the end of the day, if what a person is doing is not in line with love and the God who is love, then it is a sin. We are called to let love drive our decisions with a specific goal in mind.

After discussing our Christian liberty and the freedom we have in Christ, Paul writes the great “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1–3)

Even with questions of wisdom, there is still a governing principle or goal: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). This principle has to guide everything, even when it comes to Christian liberty.

What do we love the most?

First, Christians need to realize that all humans are primarily loving beings. We are defined by what we love the most. Christ himself states that the greatest commandments that summarize God’s will for our lives are the commands to love God, our neighbor, and self (Matt. 22). This is our identity. This is what it means to be human.

Second, we need to realize that we act and treat things according to what we love the most. If we love God, our faculties (our minds and affections) should follow that love wherever it is aimed. The same is true of our neighbors and ourselves. If we love ourselves and what brings us the most comfort, our neighbor and God will be subordinated to the self.

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