As Christians, we have incredible freedom. This is a big deal to Paul who lived most of his life under the yoke of the Law, striving toward perfection to earn status and salvation. The freedom his encounter with Christ ushered into his life is something he was passionate about proclaiming to all. Our freedom, paid for by the blood of Jesus, is a big deal. It makes Christianity different from any other religion. But our natural inclination is to slip back into slavery and drag others down with us. We stumble and cause others to stumble from two extremes: discouraging or beating others down with legalism, or on the other extreme, enticing others to sin through unwise use of liberty.
Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Romans 14 is an instruction guide on living in freedom. Freedom isn’t a long list of dos and don’ts. Freedom is knowing God and letting the Spirit give us our own personal lists. Lists that may look different in different seasons and that are different than other Christians because we have unique weaknesses, varied character work needed, and diverse assignments planned for our lives. Chuck Swindoll sums it up, “live free in Christ and allow others to do the same.”
Swindoll sums up four principles of freedom Paul outlines in Romans 14…
First (from Romans 14:1-4), accepting others is basic to cultivating freedom. Welcome those who are weak in faith, rather than quarrel with them or try to pull them into following your lists. Allow space and grace for the Holy Spirit to work and convict. Unwarranted attacks and judgment only hamper the growth of a new believer or one who is struggling in areas we may not be. Start with love; with acceptance. Allow freedom for others to hold convictions different than ours.
Second (from Romans 14:5-8), refusing to dictate to others allows the Lord freedom to direct their lives. Some people need time to grow, develop and mature…let them have it. Paul says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” Let people learn at their own pace. Give them space.
Third (from Romans 14:9-12), freeing others means we never assume a position we’re not qualified to fill. We never have full knowledge. We don’t know everything. We are utterly unqualified to judge anyone. Paul says, “why do you pass judgment on your brother...each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Judgment is not our lane. We have enough of our own stuff to bring before Jesus.
Fourth (from Romans 14:13-18), loving others requires us to express our liberty wisely. Use your freedom and liberty to build up, not tear down. Be aware. Don’t engage in activity that will cause another to stumble, even if God has not personally convicted you in that area. Let love rule.
Paul closes with, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Jesus saves us. The Word teaches us. The Spirit convicts us.
Christians in Paul’s time and today can be brutal to one another and grossly mistreat each other. From the outside looking in, who wants to be part of that family? Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’s work on the cross and saving power is non-negotiable. Loving God and our neighbors is non-negotiable. But God is not a God of lists as a way of living. He is a God of relationship. This is why it is so imperative that each of us on our own nurture this relationship, get to know God, learn to hear from Him and pray for discernment in our own lives. And allow others space and grace to do the same. Trust that God is good and the Holy Spirit is powerful. It’s not on our shoulders. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
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