Head First: I've Gotta Be Me?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I've Gotta Be Me?

(Jeff got into a discussion about legalism and the purpose of liberty over at demerging. I missed much of the discussion until after it was over, and thought I'd try opening it up a little here.)

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.(1 Cor 10: 23, 24 ESV)

A great number of people--many of them pastors, many others just "called to control"--view the idea of liberty as just another opportunity for people to "get away with something." For them, freedom is nothing more than something to abuse. Indeed, many Christians behave as if "All things are lawful," ended with a period instead of a comma.

And while some of the teaching on that passage appears to be balanced, we never really get to explore the true nature of freedom. I suppose that's why almost every discussion of liberty devolves into a debate about cussing and drinking. To me, that's not a freedom issue. That's a maturity issue (and not in the way you might think).

My impression is that Paul's remarks were offered in the context of his persistent state of mind to be "all things to all men." To me, that doesn't really give me license to do whatever I want. Better--It grants me the freedom to be myself--to relate to others in my own way. It's the freedom to acknowledge my inconsistencies and laugh along with everyone else at what an idiot I can be sometimes. It's the freedom to sit down on the curb with the homeless guy and understand that when he offers me a swig from his bottle, it's a gesture of hope for some sort of connection (and yes, I drank from it).

Reducing the argument to what we can or can't get away with is about as effective as the legalism that started the argument to begin with. It's like punching air.

If there's one common thread in virtually every blog I visit, it's that no one likes...no wait...everyone despises a phony. There are few things more disgusting and tragic than a Christian who has been convinced that he can act good enough, trying to hold his mask in place as it crumbles in his hands.

Liberty is my escape from the cookie-cutter that says, "if you want to be one of His, you've got to act like one of us." It's freedom from the wages of my sinfulness, so that I can go and BE. Be what? Well...myself...but not me...Christ living in me.

And what does that look like?

Love, baby. Love.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor 10: 31-33 ESV)


DangerMouse said...


J Hearne said...

Isn't a reading of "All things are lawful..." missing Paul's point. Isn't Paul paraphrasing what some of them are saying and contradicting them? Perhaps people are teaching this "lawfulness of all things" and Paul is arguing against them in the text? It's worth a read to consider, I think.

Zeke said...

Paul didn't write, " 'All things are lawful,' but they're not." He wrote, "but not all things are helpful." He could have taken the opportunity to throw constraints on Christian liberty beyond whether or not they are just beneficial, but he didn't. The punchline is, "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."

In other words, The Law is to love your neighbor as yourself, and exercising liberty in any other direction is not helpful and does not build up.

So is the point of this passage to instruct believers on how to use their Christian liberty, or to remind believers that they're not really free?

We in the church really, really want to believe that we can please God by not doing naughty things and when we try to do that and we think our neighbor isn't, we get pissed that they are "getting away with it!" and we want to tell on them to God.

Go one, tell me that ain't true.

Yeah, you nailed it Dorse.

Zeke said...

Uh, that should read "Go on, tell me that's not true."

dorsey said...


In looking that verse up, I noticed that some translations included the quotation marks, while others did not.

Like Zeke said, I don't think Paul was contradicting the statement, just reining it in a little, putting it in perspective. I think of the teacher who says, you don't need a hall pass to go to the lavatory, BUT that doesn't mean the whole class should just run to the bathroom at once. Chaos should be avoided, so use good judgement.

The Wretched Sinner said...

Good observations. What I have learned is that the Corinthians had taken Paul's teachings and twisted them, turning certain key phrases into slogans. Paul is reminding them of what he had truly taught.

RF2R2 said...

Good thoughts dorse. This subject is beginning to be ever more prominent in my life. My wife and I work in food service most of the week and day to day we find ourselves doing "emergency repairs" with our non-christian co-workers as a result of the, mostly absent-minded but sometimes stupid, moral superiority and hypocrasy of our christian co-workers. It is very frustrating and actually ignited (with the 'help' of an out-of-context 'revival' preacher) a heated debate between my wife and I concerning this very issue of christian liberty. Again, good thoughts.