What Can We Eat? Answers About Liberty (Part 4)
June 27, 2021
Have you noticed how many times a day you are given warnings? Among my favorites
- On a cup of coffee — “Caution: Contents Hot” (yes, isn’t that the point?)
- On a Dremel rotary tool: “This product is not intended for use as a dental drill.”
- On Rowenta irons — “Do not iron clothes on body.”
- On Frankel’s Costume Superman costumes — “Warning: This costume does not enable flight or super strength.”
- On an early version of an Apple iPod: “Do not eat iPod Shuffle.”
- On multiple chainsaw brands: “Do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw.”
- On a Staple’s letter opener: “Safety goggles recommended.”
We are given so many warnings that we tend to ignore them all. A paper in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago addressed that very issue. They recounted the origin of all our warning labels: the enactment of the Federal Caustic Poison Act (1927). Then safety labels became required for food and drug items in 1938, and by the 1980s, warning labels were routine on most consumer products. Everything seemingly now has a warning. But the explosion of warnings doesn’t distinguish between possible harms and genuine, realistic risks, so “People’s eyes glaze over when they look at a warning.…They simply don’t read it at all.”
Sometimes when we read the Bible we are tempted to approach it in the same way: “it’s another warning; keep going, don’t worry about it…” But Biblical warnings are never overstated (because they come from God). They are always given because there already is a problem or there is a genuine risk that it will become a problem. And that is exactly what Paul addresses in the last part of Romans 14 and the use of our liberties. In the first part of the chapter, he talked to both the weak and the strong; in the last half of the chapter (and into chapter 15), he addressed the strong and how they handled their liberties.
Because they are strong, there is a temptation to say, “It really is a liberty; it’s not a sin. I am free, and I can do this, so I will.” And the strong act without thinking about the implications of what they are doing. And we must think about those implications for the sake of others, as Paul has emphasized throughout ch. 14 —
Use your individual freedoms as a means of preserving the corporate unity of the Body.
Paul addresses the strong in the remainder of the chapter (and in ch. 15) with four warnings about the use of their liberties. Specifically, the use of liberties can provoke a variety of wrong consequences; Paul wants us to enjoy our liberties, but only enjoy them when they produce the intended results. So, he warns us:
- Do Not Let Your Use of Liberty Provoke Others to Stumble (vv. 13-14)
- Do Not Let Your Use of Liberty Provoke You to Be Unloving (v. 15)
- Do Not Let Your Use of Liberty Provoke Others to Speak Evil of the Gospel (v. 16)
- Do Not Let Your Use of Liberty Provoke You to Forget Gospel Purposes (vv. 17-18)
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 14:13-18.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.