I sometimes think of wise Christianity as similar to driving down a road with a ditch on either side. On the one side of the safe path is the ditch of legalism or moralism. If we veer too strongly toward strict rules and regulations, we will glide into that self-destructive and God dishonoring ditch. Paul wrote about such things in Colossians 2:16-23 and Romans 14 as he charged the church not to attempt to hold Christians to man-made rules that did not come from God.
At the same time, some people get so excited about our freedoms that they move toward a lawlessness. That, I would argue is the ditch on the other side of the road. Sometimes people decide that they are free from man-made restrictions and then they veer into the foolishness of sinning against the Lord by going too far and violating God’s clear commands.
Which ditch is worse? Does it really matter? If you crash into a ditch, you have crashed. It’s bad.
1 Corinthians 10:19-22 – 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
In this passage, Paul talks about the ditch of an over realized freedom that leads to sin. People in Corinth, at least some of them, knew that they were not forbidden from eating meat that had been a part of a pagan temple service. They knew that to restrict meat eating just in case a particular steak had been in a pagan temple was just a bit legalistic. And so these people exercised their freedom to eat meat.
But for some, this correction away from legalism led to lawlessness. Before you knew it, these people might have felt the freedom not only to eat the meat if they bought it in the market, but to actually go and sit down with the pagans in the temple of the idols as part of their ceremonies. Thus, what started as a true freedom has led to foolishness.
Paul tells the people that they cannot be so free as to let themselves participate in the celebrations of the idolaters. No, the idol is nothing. Neither is the meat anything. But the idol worship is actually the worship of demons. No Christian is so free that he or she is free to participate in the worship of demons.
For us today, this calls us to measure our freedom against foolishness. Are you free from the Old Testament law? You bet. Christ has fulfilled that law. But are you free from the principles of that law? Are you free to do things that God has forbidden? Are you free to participate in acts that the lost would participate in which dishonor the Lord? No, of course you are not free to sin.
Consider what area in your life you consider to be part of your Christian freedom or your Christian liberty. Where could it, if you are not attentive, lead you into sin? Measure it well. Think logically. Ask another Christian, especially one who does not think exactly as you do, what it would look like for your freedom to lead you into the ditch of lawlessness. Ask sincerely, and listen to the counsel you receive. You may find that your freedom is real, but that the danger is also real. Love freedom, but not to the point of foolishness.