Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 48

What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 8-10.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 9: 19-22, “For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

The movie The Matrix had just come out on DVD…and right after Sunday School the person that purchased it invited everyone over to their house for a screening. They were told to grab some food and come on over and the movie would start in about half an hour. The room was pretty excited about it and, even though I wasn’t planning on going, I figured they’d all have fun.

Until the next day.

I heard that they DVD was put in the player that the Motion Picture Association rating came up. You know. That green background with the familiar white box that lets you know who the movie’s intended audience is. In this case, the letter was “R.” For those of you that aren’t sure, that’s for 17 and over.

One of my students told the host that they wanted to watch the movie but they knew their parents wouldn’t approve because their rule was only PG-13 movies until they turned 17. The host, a senior in high school, said to call the parents and check to see if they’d make an exception. The other student said that they weren’t going to because the parents were pretty much firm on that rule.

“You can do whatever you want but we’re all watching it.” This is what I was told happened.

So, the younger student called their parents, who promptly came and picked their child up…and this is how I knew what went on. They called me in the next day. Somehow, I got in trouble.

Another time, we were in a van full of students on the way to a service project. This project is one of our ministry’s favorites and they look forward to going…and we’d developed a tradition of listening to a CD that was a compilation of many classic “funk” songs that are pretty much a staple of 70’s music that most of the parents of my students had been playing around the house for years. Let’s just say that I didn’t have to teach any of my students any words to “Roller Coaster” or “Brick House.” They were already very familiar with them. And they were belting them out and having a great time!

Until…

…one of my students sitting very close to the front whispered in my ear to ask if she could change the CD.

I asked her if we could wait til this particular one was over and we’d be happy to put hers in next. She told me that I didn’t understand. She explained that she had a conviction…

…a CONVICTION!…

…that she shouldn’t listen to music that wasn’t performed by Christians. Even more specifically, she felt that she should only listen to music on Christian record labels. She only wanted her money going to businesses that endorsed Christians.

I knew it wasn’t going to go over well.
I knew that there was going to have to be a “teachable moment” for the other 13 passengers in the van.

So, mid-song, I ejected the CD. Put on another one that was a mix of some songs by Christian artists who worked only for Christian record labels.

It didn’t go over well. Apparently, I needed a lecture on fun and the group’s tradition.
I was rehearsing my “teachable moment” lecture, too.

So, yeah.

In both instances, the unpopular move was the right move.
In both instances, I had to teach the issue of personal freedom vs. the most loving choice.

I still have plenty of instances where that has to be invoked. Such is the life when you teach the importance of grace and freedom in the Spirit…it always has to be run through the filter of the Law of Love. Sometimes, the most loving thing that can be done is to joyfully choose to limit your freedom for the benefit of the other person.

I’ll freely admit that often there are times when it gets blown up. Mistakes are made. But I’ll take the mistakes of grace over the poison of legalism if those are my choices. We can always have/give those teachable moments.

So, when I had a chance to pull my 18-year-old seniors aside to talk about this very thing…that, yes, they were free in the spirit to watch The Matrix. But instead of watching what they wanted to watch, couldn’t they have chosen one of the other 79 movies on their shelf and made sure that everybody had a chance to hang out? Sure, there were 24 other people who wanted to, but the most loving thing was to include everyone, right? I did.

So, when I got to the camp, I pulled the other 13 passengers in the van aside at various times and said…yes, it is “tradition” and they are certainly free in the spirit to enjoy the funk party, but instead couldn’t they be supportive of their friend’s very CONVICTION even if they thought it was silly and inconsistent and all the other things and made her feel like she was the most important person in the world and that she mattered to them?

That’s the very crux of this portion of Scripture.

In the case of the Corinthian church, they were buying cheap cuts of meat from the markets that were selling meat that had been sacrificed to various gods in the greater Corinth area. You could get good deals, right? You could have more folks over and enjoy fellowship, right? Besides, we all know these idols are just cut-out sticks of wood so since they’re sacrificing to nothing, what’s the harm in getting a sweet deal on groceries? I get it. I’d have been all over it. Meat offered to a stick of wood that has no power outside of being a stick? Good. Saving money? Good. Done.

But, wait!

What if someone had come to Christ who had previously taken that very stick of wood to be their very God? What if they knew it was from the market and that it had been offered as a sacrifice to the very God that had caused them so much pain and Christ had freed them from? All of a sudden, wouldn’t saving a few pennies here and there pale in comparison to having your guest be able to enjoy the meal with you? This way they get all of the enjoyment and none of the guilt or bad feelings don’t get stirred up.

Yes. I know. A buck’s a buck. Yes I know. They should come to realize that their old God is really not even a god. Just a stick carved by some guy. But they don’t realize that yet. There’s still stuff attached to their past. Maybe they will at some point in the future. But right now, they’re still trying to figure out. And, Paul’s point is that a few pennies aren’t even worth the risk.

He even uses his own freedom as an example. He says he’s an apostle with all the rights contained therein. This would include getting paid. However, given the reality that in Corinth lots of teachers made big bucks coming to town and garnering followings, he chose to work for his pay and preach the Gospel on his own time. This way no one could accuse him of doing it for the money like the other itinerant philosophers. Nope. He willingly denied something that he could legitimately be entitled to do so that he would in no way hinder the message he was trying to teach. He loved people so much…

…people he didn’t even know…

…that he’d deny himself a paycheck and work outside the church to make that happen.

That’s love.

He chose to be weak even though he didn’t have to. He wanted to fight to win. No second place was good enough. All to tell people about Jesus, which is a fight where second place has eternal consequences. What’s a paycheck compared to that?

For good measure, he reminded the folks of Israel’s long history with idols and the dangers they fell into. Paul really didn’t want those that had come to Christ to fall under the same spell…and it’s always good to remember that your people have struggled with that very thing, too.

So, the application is pretty straightforward as I see it: Are there any areas of my life in which I’m exercising my own freedom at the expense of others? Where is that balance because sometimes those very boundaries can be taken to extremes? But the greater question is, am I following the Law of Love?

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 11)

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