There is a kind of apparent conscience maturity that is actually a bondage and a weakness. Here’s an example. Someone grows up in the home of parents who are of the weaker faith persuasion. Mom and Dad have conscience convictions that are more personal preferences than biblically supported morality. Often, weaker conscience Christians tend toward legalism because not only does it affirm their position, it says they are more spiritual because of it. The parents are sincere about it and engrain their weak-faith convictions into their kid. The kid grows up, becomes an adult Christian and in the process begins thinking through what his parents taught him. Somewhere along the way, he discovers that in some of these areas, Mom and Dad weren’t quite biblical. The now adult has an epiphany, Wait, Christians actually have freedom to participate! An idol is nothing and meat offered to it is no big deal! Mom, Dad. You are wrong! All these years. You are wrong! God has anointed me to be the one to point this out to you!
What often happens is that in finding freedom, there is a flaunting and air of superior spirituality that he now can eat idol meat. Look at me, I am eating idol meat and it tastes good! Look at me! Look at how spiritual I am. I am actually putting idol meat in my mouth. Wow. I feel so close to God now! The real sign of spirituality is eating idol meat! Now he flaunts it. When he’s out with his parents, he makes sure to order from the idol meat portion of the menu. In choosing a church, he’s looking for a church that is really into eating idol meat. The conscience is right but the attitude is totally wrong. He is enslaved to his freedom much like his parents were enslaved to their lack of freedom.
God’s in heaven thinking, I don’t care about idol meat but that attitude has got to go. Why?
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
The real place of maturity on Christian liberty issues is when these things don’t matter to us one way or the other and are way less important to us than the things that do matter to God like righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
I had better be certain that whatever I am doing has a direct connection to truth. I had better be sure that the supreme worth of Jesus is my starting, continuing and ending value. I had better be sure that my “freedom in Christ” is not of my own manufacture, for if it is, I am still a legalist. I have simply moved from negative legalism (I don’t do this; therefore, I’m okay) to affirmative legalism (I can do this; therefore, I am okay). –Harold Best
Idol meat issues come and go. Much of it is cultural. The gray areas are different on the east coast then on the west coast. Go to a church in Europe or Africa and the liberty issues are entirely different. Real spirituality is much deeper than outward lifestyle choices in gray areas, real godliness gets past the “I do” or “I don’t” to what would be best for my brother or sister in Christ, best for missional living, best for the kingdom of God.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.