Loving the Brethren More than Our Preferences
The sixteenth-century Reformer, Martin Luther, once wrote this famous line in his work entitled, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), a classic which every Christian today should read. The line goes like this: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” These are two seemingly contradictory statements—EXCEPT when they are properly understood within the context of the Christian faith. Paul himself says as much: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all” (1 Corinthians 9:19). And as we read the other day, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). All of this expresses the truth that the Christian has been set free from the flesh, the world, the devil, the law, death itself, and all those things that previously bound him, by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is now his only Lord and Master and worthy of all his service and devotion. BUT in that we have been set free from our former slave-drivers, we are now to voluntarily return to our neighbors as “free-servants,” so to speak; that is, people who serve others not out of fear or necessity but out of love and a desire to see them come to saving faith in Christ Jesus. By freely serving others, we serve our only Lord and Master.
And so in the family of God, though I am free to, say, play cards, I will not do so in the presence of my brother who finds it objectionable. But it is by my own choice which I freely make out of love for him that I refuse to do so; I am not compelled by him. On the other hand, Luther would say, and I agree, that if my brother says to me, “Thou shalt NOT play Canasta,” then I shall play Canasta right in front of his face to show him that I will not have my liberty in Christ Jesus annulled by his scruples (Galatians 2:1-5). My paternal grandmother (born 1904) once said that her mother would turn over in her grave if she ever donned a pair of pants. Thus, to have worn pants would have been sin for her as she could not have done so with a clear conscience and from sincere faith in Christ. Needless to say, women today have no such problem and do not sin thereby. But please bear in mind, we are not to allow our freedom to become an opportunity for the flesh (Galatians 5:13). A woman (or man) who dresses as scantily as local law allows is sinning; and, if such a one tells you that their conscience is clear in this matter, then their conscience has not been formed by Scripture which counsels modesty (1 Timothy 2:9-10). So you are free—free to serve others and free to enjoy life’s pleasures, but not at the expense of others, and certainly not where Scripture says otherwise.