Nike tells us “Just Do It,” or Diet Coke’s campaign suggests “Like what you like” and “Life is short.” American culture believes we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. Self-reliant, self-sufficient, independent are words proudly used to describe our society. We wear them like badges of honor. We don’t believe in breaking the laws, but we will advocate changing any of them that interfere with our choices to do anything we desire. Many in the world would love to have our freedoms.
But, are we free to do what we want or are there consequences to our actions? For example, if I eat only junk food because I love it, how will such a diet affect my health? If I play computer games all day at my job instead of doing my work, will my company consider firing me? Just like Newton’s third law of motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, for every action we take, there is some reaction that occurs around us, and we don’t always consider how our actions impact others.
As Christians, can we do whatever we want as long as we don’t sin in the process? The Apostle Paul addresses this issue in the tenth chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul starts the discussion in verse 23, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.” Just like with American society, everyone is watching our freedoms. And Paul understood how our actions might impact those around us. 1 Corinthians 10:24 continues with these instructions, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” The Christians must be aware of how our behaviors look to others. Paul takes the rest of chapter 10 to outline this principle by discussing the issue of his time of eating food sacrificed to gods. He concluded by stating it is not a sin to eat sacrificed foods, but if you do and it causes someone around you to stumble, then it is wrong. A modern take on the topic might be that the Bible does not prohibit us from drinking, but if our drinking causes another to sin, then we should we drink with them?
It is difficult for us to think we can’t live our lives like the rest of society. In Matthew 7:14, God understood the struggled when he told us; “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” God’s grace saves us from our sins, but we must also live to a higher standard than those around us. We are free in Christ but not free to do anything we want.