23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:23
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. Romans 14:19,20
The Declaration of Independence uses a phrase that has become ubiquitous in the minds of most Americans. John Locke declares that human beings have the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This idea of inalienable rights is the backbone of the United States. It is rooted in the prioritization of personal freedom. The American experiment has proven to be one of the healthiest political frameworks in history. It has produced a country where human thriving is generally higher than in many other places. It has also served as a template for many other first-world countries.
One of the reasons the United States has been a dominant force politically, economically, and socially is its emphasis on freedom. With that said, freedom can go too far. The way of Jesus also prioritizes freedom, but Jesus does so in the context of love. The gospel is the ultimate liberation of bondage to sin and death; it is an invitation to maximum freedom, but the law of love also limits it. Paul’s writings have challenged societies throughout history to find the balance between personal freedom and love. When does our freedom begin to damage others?
Take a moment to thank God for the freedom he has given you. The kingdom of God is a highly free place. You are free from sin, death, and shame. You are free from condemnation, fear, and punishment. Now, is there anywhere in your life where your personal preference or freedom is unloving towards another person? Love is the boundary of your freedom, and even that is a gift from God.