Martin Luther; “On the Freedom of a Christian Man”:
A Christian man is a most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all, subject to all. [Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 14:1 – 15:13]
The first point reflects a believer’s freedom in Christ. The second point reflects a free Christian’s vocation in Christ, which is a servant to all. To be free in Christ is to be free indeed. Free from the slavery of sin. Free to be a slave to Christ and by extension a slave to others.
Don’t you just love the beautiful tension in the freedom we have and the right use of our freedom to glorify God?
In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul tells us that when we use our freedom [which comes from our knowledge of our position in Christ] we might become a stumbling block to the weak.
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)
Who are the weak? A Christian who, because of the weakness of his faith, knowledge, conscience, and will can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example of a differing stronger brother.
Who are the strong? A Christian who, because of his understanding of Christian freedom and the strength of his convictions, exercises his liberty in good conscience without being improperly influenced by the differing opinions of others.
What is a stumbling block in this context? An action taken by a stronger brother that, though it would ordinarily be qualified as a permissible act of freedom [eating meat sacrificed to idols]; it influences the weaker brother to sin against his conscience.
The responsibility of sin is charged to the stronger brother because of his insensitivity to the weaker brother’s vulnerability.
Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12 ESV)
In matters of first importance we can never falter. On matters of secondary importance we can have knowledge and freedom based on scripture and our freedom in Christ; but we must temper this freedom with love to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Just like the 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of speech it also guarantees the freedom not to speak. Sometimes exercising our freedom may not look like freedom at all. But it can be love, maybe just in disguise.