Freedom – what does this mean for a Christian, especially as it relates to our behavior? Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:12-13 NIV,
“Everything is permissible for me”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”–but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”–but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
Paul is quoting from the letter the Corinthian church wrote to him. Members of the church were focusing on the freedom they had in Christ, to the exclusion of the responsibility they had in Christ, that is, to behave in a manner worthy of followers of Jesus. Later in Paul’s letter to this church he says,
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. I Corinthians 10:23-24 NIV
We have freedom in Christ, freedom from following the Jewish law, because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross – once for all. But – just as with children growing into adults, as we grow in age and gain more freedom – we also grow in the responsibility we bear for our individual behavior. Not all behavior is beneficial or constructive for ourselves or for others. The Apostle Peter writes, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” I Peter 2:16 NIV. The Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian churches, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13 NIV
It seems that several members of the Corinthian church were only focused on pleasing themselves. Paul is strongly admonishing this church to behave in a way that honors God and honors God’s design for marriage. The author of Hebrews encourages us, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4 NIV
So, what about our freedom? I believe we need to keep I Corinthians 10:23-24 in mind. Ask yourself “am I not behaving in a manner that is seeking the other person’s good?” “Am I behaving in a manner that will harm someone else, or harm myself?” If the answer is yes, then I believe we do not have the freedom to act in that manner. Spend some time examining your own motives, actions, and behaviors. Confess as needed, ask God to clarify your next steps.