Now that you are rejoicing in and defending your freedom, you need to know what liberty of conscience is.
WHAT IS CHRISTIAN LIBERTY?
Christian liberty is not a license to do whatever you wish. ( Sorry about that!) Christian liberty does not permit you to engage in sinful practices. Yes, the Christian is free from the curse of the law–from its judgment of death. But, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The Moral Law is the believer’s rule of life and part of his assurance of salvation. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments (I John 2:4). A.A. Hodge of Princeton Seminary said,
…Christian liberty is not an absolute liberty to do as we choose, but a regulated liberty to obey God without hindrance from man. It is a freedom from usurped authority, in order that we may be the more perfectly subjected to the only legitimate authority (The Confession of Faith, p. 267-268).
Of course, Scripture is your only legitimate authority. The government or church leader who is telling you what to do has wrongly seized authority over you when their law or “rule” does not fit in with biblical principles or precepts. Suppose you find out in your second trimester that there may be something wrong with your baby. Your doctor recommends abortion. Your mother and husband tell you to abort. Even your pastor believes it is the logical thing to do. But your heart says “No.” You keep hearing, “You shall not kill” and you conclude it would be murder to abort. Christian liberty says you are free to obey scripture in this case rather than your husband much less your doctor, mother, or pastor. You are free to obey God rather than others; free to obey the Bible’s precepts and principles even if your culture or government thinks otherwise.
Christian liberty, however, usually involves “things indifferent,” actions that God neither commands nor forbids. I Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14 both speak to these kind of issues. The burning issues of Paul’s day was whether a Christian could eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols and then sold in the market and whether women should keep their head covered in church. Paul concluded that he was free to eat any meat he wanted. But, if it caused you to eat meat when you felt it was wrong, he would put love above his freedom and not eat the meat until you had been instructed further and understood the biblical principles involved. (See “Worship” by Ernest Reisinger, (http://www.founder.org) p. 115-129). He went along with the custom of the day where women covered their heads, but he left even that open to individual conscience influenced by corporate decisions.
What are the burning issues today? The marriage of a homosexual couple is not an indifferent matter. The Bible speaks clearly about this. But, what will you do when that wedding invitation comes? The Bible does not speak anywhere about attending or providing catering or floral arrangements to this wedding. You might decide to go–or you might think that by going you are showing approval. It is an “indifferent” matter. You are at liberty to do either. However, the government might declare that if you are in business and are asked to cater the affair, or provide the flowers, you must do so. There may be a penalty if you refuse.
Paul decided he was free to eat meat and ask no questions. He was severely criticized for that. He wrote I Corinthians 9-10 to defend himself. If you decide to go–or do business with the couple, think about whether going–or not going–gives glory to God:
So…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense …. (I Cor. 10:31-32).
But, if someone gets mad at you for going–or for not going–don’t worry. Give them the freedom to go–or not. Don’t urge them to go or make them feel guilty. Urge them to reason through the burning issues like Paul did in Corinthians and Romans.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the LORD is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4).
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. …The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:5, 22-23).
In other words, on burning issues that are matters of indifference proceed with caution. Enjoy your liberty to figure things out for yourself when the Word is silent, yet take into consideration what is generally acceptable in your church about this issue (I Corinthians 10:2-16). And be willing to lay aside your own opinion if your going to the wedding causes another Christian to attend even though she thinks it is wrong for her to do so. You do not want to encourage another to violate their conscience before they fully understand the things involved. Christian liberty is a wonderful thing, don’t you agree? It upholds the dignity of each human being. It has been a principle worth dying for in times past. The Christian community may again have to suffer in order to preserve it.