“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins," Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. colorfully stated. My freedom only extends as far yours begins.
Although the jurist spoke about man’s laws, perhaps he had Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians in mind. As the ISV translation puts it, “You must see to it that this right of yours doesn’t become a stumbling block.”
Although God’s principles for right-living are straightforward and plain, their application may be unclear. Anything not expressly forbidden is permissible, but may not be wise.
One of those application questions divided the Corinthian church. Was it OK to eat meat sacrificed to idols? Some said yes. The idols were nothing, so the offering meant nothing. Others said no. When they ate the meat, they felt like they were partaking in worship to the god in question, and for them it was sin. When believers, who could eat idol meat in good conscience, exercised that right in the presence of members who couldn’t it eat it in good conscience, it tempted the weaker ones to sin.
Christian living is neither an inflexible list of rules, nor guaranteed rights. What might be acceptable in one time and place may be inadvisable someplace else. For example, today it might work like this: if your glass of wine tempts someone at the table to break their sobriety, pour it out.
As the saying goes, ”Let your motto be forbearance, not privilege.” Freedom for one must mean freedom for all.
Heavenly Father, our Wise Judge, guide my conscience so I’m aware of the effect my choices make on people around me. May I not exercise my rights in ways that harm others. Amen.
Go Deeper — Have your actions or wants been a stumbling block to someone else? What did you do? What can you do next time to prevent it?
Photo Credit: Annie Theby