Kevin was one of my first client’s when I began working in the New Journey program at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission back in March. A little over 9 months later, he’s now also my first graduate — the first man to graduate who was assigned to me as his advocate.
As many of you know, as of November I’ve since moved on from employment at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission; I’m now working for my church, CrossWay. But I’ve been able to stay connected with Kevin, through my volunteer teaching at the Mission, and because Kevin attends CrossWay.
I’m incredibly proud of what Kevin has accomplished thus far, or more properly, the changes that God has worked in his life over the course of this past year. He’s an entirely new person today, even as God continues to do work in his life. I can look back at old habits that he has since identified and continues to change. He plans on pursuing education and job training, even as he’s already done, to further advance his career opportunities. And he is heavily invested in his church, with a deep appreciate for the role of the church in his life. Most importantly though, he places his faith in Christ.
I spent some time examining Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 due to a personal matter I am contemplating and thinking over. But in the process of doing so, I composed a list of principles from this passage that I thought I might as well share for the benefit of anyone who might find this summary helpful. Here goes:
Certain matters that are not really ‘issues,’ and in which one may have ‘rights,’ are considered ‘issues’ by some due to associations.
Make use of God’s blessings.
Avoid idolatrous and sinful practices.
The ‘weak’ (in conscience) are not to judge the ‘strong.’
‘Strong’ (in conscience) are not to despise the ‘weak.’ The ‘strong are to avoid arrogance due to such knowledge.
One’s liberty is not to be determined by another’s conscience. But one’s exercise of such liberty is.
Everyone must be convinced. Violation of conscience is sin.
Decisions are to be oriented around what honors God. Do all to God’s glory.
Be aware that there are some matters in which one has a ‘right’ but may not be beneficial.
Everyone will give an account to God.
Exercising ‘rights’ does not necessarily equal doing what is loving.
Avoid causing others to stumble, i.e., encouraging others with weak consciences to do likewise, which for them would be sin (i.e., a violation of conscience).
Causing another to stumble is sinning against them and against Christ who died for them.
Due to potentially offending others, keep certain matters between you and God.
Pursue what is loving, brings peace and harmony, and builds others up.
Do not allow anything to be a hindrance to the cause of the gospel of Christ, so that more might be converted.
Become “all things to all people” (specifically in terms of evangelism in this context)–contextualize, accommodate.
* Note: Some of these principles seem to conflict with or be in tension with other principles in this list. This predicament seems to be best explained by the fact that Paul prioritizes certain principles above others (e.g., in 1 Cor 9 Paul states that he indeed has ‘rights’—a principle—but doesn’t exercise them for certain reasons, i.e., higher prioritized principles).
* Note: Paul tells the ‘weak’ to respect the liberty of the ‘strong’ and the ‘strong’ to accommodate the ‘weak.’ According to these dual instructions, if either category (i.e., the ‘weak’ or ‘strong’) fulfills their particular instruction, harmony will exist. It is only when neither group defers to the other group that conflict will arise, although Paul would seem to desire both groups to defer to the other.
“…Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We often like to change this positive “do” into a negative “do not”–“do not do anything which is ‘de-glorifying’ to God; don’t do anything sinful.” How often have you heard things like, “don’t do this or that because it’s not glorifying to God”? The danger here is succumbing to the mindset that a lack of error and refrain from sin is all that Paul intended by these words (→ 1 Cor 10:31). But to leave the positive assertion untouched (as a positive assertion) is far more challenging–everything we do is to be for the purpose of or aim of glorifying God. As Paul said earlier in verse 23, not everything that is permissible is beneficial. How often do we think in terms of “permissible” rather than “beneficial,” allowing ourselves to think in terms of what’s allowable v. what isn’t, and thereby making 1 Cor 10:31 into a negative command to refrain from certain activities rather than a positive command to “do”–do what brings glory to God, or more so, do what brings the most glory to God? We are drawn towards thinking in terms of “permissible” (in either form: a legalistic moralism or a carnal antinomianism) because it’s much easier. But this doesn’t necessarily entail the radical discipleship of “do” which scripture commands and is therefore terribly insufficient.