Thursday, August 26, 2010

Christian Liberty

"Someone may say, 'I'm allowed to do anything,' but not everything is helpful. I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth." 1 Cor. 10:23 (GW) Recently, I've been engaged in a discussion involving Christian liberty. Questions have revolved around two primary behaviors: the use of alcohol and profanity. Is it permissible for a Christian to drink and cuss? Well, the answer is "it depends." For example, it certainly would not be wrong for a believer to drink actual wine during communion and if, for some reason, a Christian felt led of the Lord to speak a strong word to a persecutor, cursing may be allowed. For example, if a missionary was being murdered by Osama Bin Laden and felt he needed to warn OBL that he was headed for Hell, I doubt anyone would believe it would be wrong for the missionary to say, "Mr. Bin Laden, if you continue this ungodly violence, your soul will be damned." Some could argue that the word "damned" in such a context is a curse word and, yet, is not sinful in that context. I would agree. I also have no problem with a believer partaking in the use of alcohol in certain circumstances (i.e. privately, as a medication--ex. Nyquil, without drunkenness, and apart from settings where it is likely to lead to pain--such as where alcoholics are present or a sinful atmosphere is being promoted). But the bottom line is this: what is wise? In most contexts, the best that can be said of both behaviors is that they are dangerous and clearly lead to sin. This means that people will get hurt. And in many cases, these behaviors are without a doubt sinful in and of themselves. The Bible overwhelmingly condemns cursing because it overwhelmingly is crude and offensive to the ears of a holy God. The Bible also is very clear that drunkenness is a huge problem for hurting people, so why take the chance of drinking with a potential alcoholic in the name of some noble motive? (For example: "I'm going to drink at a bar to reach people for Jesus.") Wayne Grudem, theologian extraordinaire, says the following about profanity (which has obvious implications for drinking):

ESV Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude
joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
ESV Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
ESV Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
“Using the words commonly thought to be offensive in the culture seems to me to be sort of the verbal equivalent of not wearing deodorant and having body odor, or of going around with spilled food on our shirts all the time. Someone might argue that not wearing deodorant or wearing dirty clothes are not morally wrong things in themselves, but my response is that they do give needless offense and cause others to think of us as somewhat impure or unclean. So, I think, does using words commonly thought to be ‘obscene’ or ‘offensive’ or ‘vulgar’ in the culture generally. Plus it encourages others to act in the same way. So in that way it brings reproach on the church and the gospel.”
When I was younger, I pushed the limits of these behaviors. My attitude was that I'm a believer and nobody has a right to infringe on my freedoms. So I cussed every now and then and I drank openly. Then some people got hurt. An alcoholic who I drank with continued to struggle with alcohol and almost lost his family. The people I cussed with often engaged in unethical behaviors that hurt many. And I was ashamed. And God convicted me of my reckless attitude. As believers, our goal is to draw others closer to Christ. My freedom or the need to be seen as one of the guys is not worth the substantial risk of hurting others. And it's unnecessary. Ask any football player, construction worker, or sailor which guy they respected the most on their team, at the site, or on their ship and they will usually tell you it was the guy who worked hard, was brave, was not judgmental, and, you guessed it, didn't cuss or go to the bars. Matt. 5:17 "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."