Recently I read a quote that has stuck with me: “looking at our culture, you’d think self-expression, not self-control, is a virtue.” I’ve thought a lot about that: there is a lot there. Today’s reading from 1 Corinthians 8: 9-13 brought it back to my mind:
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.
In Paul’s day, there was much debate in the church about what you could and could not eat. Should you eat food that has been dedicated to idols? Should you not? What should you do as a Christian? This is something that we see over and over in the New Testament. What should a Christian do?
Paul really lays it out here. You know what? Sure, you can. It’s your right. You can do it. But, if you harm another person, as a Christian, should you really do it? Is it worth it?
That’s why Paul says, if food bothers someone, then I’ll never eat meat.
People matter more than meat. They are more important.
In our culture, you and I doing what we want is the most important thing. Or at least that is what we are told over and over again. But according to the Bible, being willing to sacrifice myself for you is the most important thing.
It’s not about me. Rick Warren starts off his book The Purpose Driven Life with that statement: “it’s not about you.” It’s not about you and me. It’s about loving others more than we love ourselves.
I should love you more than I love doing what I want. I should lay down my life, my preference, for you. Because you matter. Jesus died for you. He loves you.
And if I get what I want but harm you, have I really accomplished anything?
Self-control is a virtue. It is a fruit of the Spirit. And it is an awareness that it is really not all about us. And here’s the awesome thing. That’s where freedom comes from. Freedom is not doing what we want all the time, living for ourselves. Freedom is living under the grace of God. Because then we are truly free.
Today, let’s remember that self-control is a virtue. Let’s remember that just because we want to do something, or we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should. Let’s live for God. Let’s live for others.
And in that, let’s find true freedom.