A quote from Benjamin Franklin surfaced about fifteen years ago and people post it to social media quite often. “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” It is a quote meant to remind people that even in perilous times, such as the US has been dealing with since 9/11/01 giving up freedom, even a small part of it, to gain security leads to a situation where not only is that freedom lost, no security is gained. People may be worse off than before they tried to gain that security. The meaning behind what Franklin said was that we should never surrender any of our freedoms or we will end up worse than before.
Freedom is important our world. As followers of Christ, we have been freed from the Law and base our lives on our freedom in Christ. We don’t answer to anyone but God for our actions. We serve a loving, merciful God who forgives us when we do wrong. Only, some of us have been rescued from a particular sin and need to avoid being around that activity, because the temptation is too great. Others, using their freedom, engage in that activity which had kept us ensnared may embolden us to fall into that same trap again. Or perhaps, people trapped in that sin, considering giving it up to follow Christ, see strong Christians engaged in that behavior and stop worrying about their sin. Paul told the Corinthians that they needed to be ready to give up that freedom. “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” (1 Corinthians 8:11)
The major issue Paul was dealing with was meat offered to idols. The Corinthians, in the freedom, had gone beyond what the Jerusalem Council had ordained and were willing to buy meat at the pagan temple markets. Sure, they may have been part of a sacrifice offered at that temple, but they didn’t believe in that pagan foolishness. Pagan gods and goddesses were nothing. It seemed like a win – win situation for the early Christians. They got the best meat, because people only sacrificed the best, at cheap prices, because the temple got the meat in a sacrifice, and they didn’t have to worship the pagan gods or goddesses. But, there was a problem. Many of the Corinthian Christians had come out of that kind of lifestyle – where they worshiped these pagan deities and the meat had been offered to idols. In fact, things were so bad for some of them that they assumed that any meat had been offered to an idol and thus, became vegetarians. When their brothers ate meat, it caused problems for them. While Paul here reminded the Corinthians that they had the freedom to eat such meat, he himself would surrender his freedom to eat meat so that he might prevent a brother from falling back into sin.
The lesson here is far greater than helping Christians understand how to deal with dietary choices. It is a declaration that we should think of others before ourselves at all times. Meat today hasn’t usually been sacrificed to idols. Most of us don’t have to face that dilemma. But, there are still things that may have entrapped followers of Christ that others might not see as sin. We, as people called to think of other first, must be careful not to lead fellow believers back into that sin. For me, a major problem is alcohol. For most Christians, that isn’t a problem. I have a problem with it. I can deal with my brothers and sisters drinking, but there are times when it’s easy to get tempted. Sometimes I struggle when I see others drinking or go out to a restaurant and see people drinking wine. I can deal with that, just don’t try to make me join you if you do drink. And give others the same type of courtesy when they decline your offers in any area. You don’t know the struggle they’re dealing with.
Lord, I am weak. Grant me strength to overcome my sinful desires and compassion for fellow believers.