Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cautious Freedom

I’m still not confident of how theologically true his statement was. All I know is that I believed him at the time and it wreaked havoc on me as a fairly new believer. He was a godly man that from all appearances had a godly marriage. I was a college student that had only been a believer for a couple of years and only hoped that someday I could be married to a godly woman.

“It’s not wrong to appreciate beauty. Don’t beat yourself up for ‘just noticing’. It’s that second look that is lust.”

I think I agree with him. And had he said that to me today, I doubt it would have damaged my soul as it did back then. But back then I wasn’t ready for such a “freedom”. I had only been saved a little while and that old habit of objectifying women had not yet been conquered; you could say that I was still haunted by the question.

So I took his advice. And as a hormonally charged sophomore in college I stopped fighting “the look”. I told myself that as long as I didn’t look for too long then it wasn’t a sin. I thought that I could still play the game of measuring women by physical appearance. As you can imagine this re-opened the gates to sin that I thought was conquered.

My brother’s freedom to not beat himself up for ‘just noticing’ had done serious damage to my heart. I was weak. I wasn’t ready for such a freedom. As theologically true as his counsel might have been—it was terrible. My experience was similar to what John Newton explained when he said:

And I have known and conversed with some who I fear have made shipwreck of their profession, who have dated their first decline from imitating others, whom they thought wiser and better than themselves, in such kind of compliances. (Newton On Christian Liberty)

That was me. Thankfully that was me. The Lord rescued me anew from that rebellious way of viewing the world. But it was a painful time that I still deeply regret.

The Freedom Not to Exercise

I’ll cut straight to the point: I’m afraid that my generation is going to kill ourselves and the generations to come because of our supposed freedom. I believe there are many things that we have the right to do because of the work of Christ. But there are many things that we should not exercise our right to do because of the work of Christ in also uniting us to weaker brothers and sisters.

I agree with my freedom-flaunting brothers (was that too harsh?) that we must be careful of legalism. Yes, there are unbiblical fetters that people attempt to put on one another. But I also believe, with Newton, that “when the mind is more enlightened, and we feel a liberty from many fetters we had imposed upon ourselves, we are in danger of verging too far towards the other extreme”.

May the Lord keep us from extremes. May He also cause us to be free to lovingly not exercise our freedoms for the sake of our brothers and sisters. It is my prayer that our generation, the ones before us, and the ones to come will have the wisdom to know when to exercise freedom and when to abstain.

May we be cautious with our freedoms.


  1. I find myself trying to explain the difference between 'can' and 'should' in a lot of conversations. We always get ourselves into trouble when we do not take our witness, influence, and example into consideration. It keeps coming back back to the reality that God saves persons to make a people for His glory. Part of the responsibility we bear as the people of God is that we are our brother's keeper.

  2. I've often heard it quoted that pure religion is to take care of orphans and widows. That's a modified Scripture which actually says "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27)

    Exercising our Christian liberty in the 21st century is a tightrope walk as we attempt to keep ourselves from being "spotted by the world" as that verse says in another translation. We are not only our brother's keeper, as Terry Buster notes ... we are "our" keeper. Billy Graham once said "There are things I could do if I wanted to, but the thing is I don't want to!" Progressive sanctification takes the "want to" out of our lives. It's amazing what we Christians could do without in this old world and still feel free in Christ.

  3. This is a message that Paul repeated. In fact, he considered it a reward NOT to make full use of his rights (1 Cor 9:18). We have a culture that makes much about people's rights to the extent that we are fighting over whose rights are taking the rights away from whom such that Chuck Colson once said that we were becoming ungovernable. That's bad news. In the Church, the only right we should tout is the right to be the children of God (1 John 1:12), and even then only humbly, acknowledging only the work of Christ according to the will of God.



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