In the last couple of months, as I have articulated the importance of recognizing and respecting Christian liberty (the realm of personal judgment) in numerous articles, Facebook posts, and in-person discussions, many have incorrectly drawn the conclusion that I am endorsing certain behaviors and activities that I believe fall within the realm of liberty.
I have spoken often of things such as prom and tattoos. My point has not necessarily been to endorse these and other such choices, but to point out that these ARE, to varying degrees, matters of liberty or personal judgment, and that we cannot, therefore, unilaterally condemn those who make such choices (to get a tattoo or attend the prom). Both of these are either widely condemned or, in the very least, STRONGLY discouraged by those in “conservative churches of Christ,” so my argument that we cannot unilaterally condemn or judge such actions has been interpreted as endorsement or approval.
This is not a fair or logical response.
One isn’t endorsing a thing simply because he/she doesn’t condemn it.
Think of the American soldier who goes to war to preserve our freedoms and liberties as Americans, even though he doesn’t necessarily personally agree with the exercise of some of those liberties – for example, the right to protest the very war being waged by the soldier.
On a spiritual level, I absolutely do not endorse the prom. In fact, I would try to discourage any young Christian person from going – for many of the same reasons touted by those who condemn it outright. But at the end of the day, because prom isn’t condemned in Scripture (or even dancing, for that matter), but rather lust, lasciviousness, ungodly attire and the carnal mind, I’m not going to condemn prom outright. And just like that American soldier who fights to protect even those liberties that he may not personally endorse, I will stand against brethren who condemn that which God has not condemned just as I will try to reason with the young Christian who has expressed a desire to attend.
In texts such as Matthew 12:1-14 and Matthew 15:1-9, Jesus staunchly opposed the Pharisees for creating laws and bylaws that God had not Himself created in the written Word. There is a real problem when we draw lines that God has not drawn and condemn others for not complying with our lines.
“He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (Prov. 17:15)
“In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9)
“There is ONE Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:12)
Oh, and just read Romans 14 again…and then again, and go ahead and read it a third time for good measure.
I agree that we have to walk in wisdom (Eph. 5:15), but wisdom is often adjusted and/or defined by one’s particular personality and circumstances. I agree that we are not to make provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14), but, again, each of us has to make this decision based on our own unique circumstances. I agree that we are to shine as lights in this dark world (Phil. 2:14-15, et al), but that may look differently for different people.
We can and must teach these biblical principles, but we have to be careful to avoid condemning others based on our own personal, somewhat subjective application and commentary of these Scriptural principles. Teach the principles and counsel others based on your wisdom, but let each one work out his/her own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
These are points I’ve made before.
My main point in this article is that just because I fight to preserve the realm of liberty that Christ died to establish, and just because I oppose those brethren who, like the Pharisees of old, teach as law their own unspoken set of bylaws and rules…does NOT mean that I unilaterally endorse each and every liberty that I mention or speak of.
I know that this is a battle worth fighting because it’s a battle Jesus fought time and time again. Why? Because God alone is the Lawgiver and Judge, and it is flat out wrong, if not blasphemous (and arrogant) to assume these roles for ourselves.
I hope this makes sense.