We Limit Our Freedom For Others

We who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
–Romans 15:1

In Romans 14 and 15, Paul addressed those who are weak in the faith. He said: If you think you need to abstain from this food, this drink, if you need to participate in the Sabbath rituals, fine. But do not make your convictions somebody else’s obligation. Then he talked to those who are strong in their faith–people who have freedom in Christ from these restrictions. He said: Do not use your freedom to tear somebody else down. If your freedom causes somebody else to violate their conscience and do something God tells them not to do, then you have torn up a brother in Christ. You have hurt that brother for whom Christ died. You need to limit your freedom for the well-being of others.

In Romans 14:1, Paul said, “Accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” He closed his discussion with the same command in Romans 15:1: “Now we who are strong”–that is, those of us who have knowledge that we are free to do things that are not prohibited in Scripture–“ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” If there is somebody in your church with whom you disagree about a gray area in Scripture, you don’t just tolerate them; you actually bear the weaknesses. That is, you limit your own freedom for the sake of their well-being instead of living to please yourself. Paul went on to say, “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (15:2). Instead of just thinking about yourself, think about the well-being of your neighbor.

We limit our freedom for the well-being not only of other Christians but also for the well-being of the Church. Paul said there are times we limit our liberty for the sake of others. And then he gave an illustration of that. What better illustration of limiting our liberty for the sake of other people than the illustration of Jesus Himself? In Romans 15:3-12 Paul gave us one long illustration of what it means to not please yourself but to look out for other people.

I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, when in evangelical churches the only aspect of Jesus’ life that was ever talked about was His death and resurrection. That was a time in liberal theology when people said, “Jesus came to be a good example for us.” They denied His blood atonement for our sins and His bodily resurrection, so that was all evangelicals talked about. It is true that Jesus came to be our Savior. He did not come just to be an example or a teacher; He came to pay the penalty for our sin. But there is a lot to be learned from the life of Jesus Christ and how He lived. That is what Paul was saying in Romans 15:3-12. He was saying, “In this matter of not living for yourself but living to serve other people, consider Jesus’ life and imitate it.”

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Cure For “I” Problems” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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