By Michael E. Brooks
?But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away form the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, … men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer? (1 Timothy 4:1, 2-5).
A Bangladeshi Christian family is planning a memorial gathering for their father, who died a little over one year ago. As the gentlemen was a long-time, prominent member of his community, several hundred people are expected, including those of Christian, Hindu, and Muslim faiths. In order to deal with the complications caused by different food customs of the various religions, meals will be served on two separate days, one featuring beef, the other pork. Only those whose faith permits a particular meat will attend on the day it is served.
For those of us who have lived all our lives in a culture influenced for centuries by the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate just how revolutionary those teachings were when first given. And we may forget how revolutionary they still are when introduced into cultures based on other philosophical or religious principles. We may also fail to realize how liberating an influence Christianity has had on the world.
Much of the world is preoccupied with strict, careful examination of all their food and many other aspects of daily life, in order to ensure they do not violate detailed regulations and thus be defiled, offending God and their neighbors. What a contrast it is to boldly say, ?everything created by God is good.? Christians can eat without minute examination, without undue worry. ?Nothing is to be rejected.? It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit calls Christianity, ?the perfect law of liberty? (James 1:25). Christianity?s precepts do not burden believers, but rather set them free to do what is good and right (1 John 5:3).
Conversely, however, Christian liberty is not license to do whatever one wants. Liberty is exercised within the parameters of God?s truth and spirit. ?There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit? (Romans 8:1). ?This is the message we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth? (1 John 1:5-6). ?What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)?
These and many other clear New Testament passages teach that there are limits to Christian behavior. But observing those limits is not a burdensome, imprisoning process. Christians are free to do that which is right and good, and they do it because it is their nature to live so. They are transformed from the carnal, sinful nature of the old man, to a new creature, ?created in righteousness and true holiness?, made new by a change of mind / heart (Ephesians 4:23-24; Romans 12:2).
One finds himself doing what he desires to do, but also discovers that what is desires to do is that which is right and good, in keeping with the will of God. This is true freedom.
By Michael E. Brooks