“free, nevertheless…”

Jesus once said «the sons are free, nevertheless…» Hmmm – what’s He teaching?

Matt. 17:24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Jesus was teaching Peter an important lesson about how our concern for others must limit how we use our liberty. He’s saying in essence, «We are free, nevertheless, we’re going to limit the use of our liberty, so as not to offend.» He teaches the same lesson through Paul.

In 1Cor 9:1 Paul asks, «Am I not free?» In 9:19, he answers his own question. Sure, he’s free, nevertheless, he made himself a servant to all for the sake of the gospel.

9:19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 1Cor. 9:22 I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake..

In other words, he made choices about what to do and what not to do based on what was best for others, for the sake of the gospel. He was seeking not for his own well-being, but for the well-being of others, and trying hard not to offend anyone.

1Cor. 10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
1Cor. 10:32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

We have great liberty in Christ, great freedom to make decisions on many things – what we wear, what we listen to or watch, what we eat or drink, how we use our time. On the other hand, the choices we make can give offense to others around us.

So what if others let you know that there’s something you’re doing or choices you’re making that give offense to them and/or the church? You might defend yourself saying, «I’m not doing anything wrong! There’s no law against this!» and you might be right. On the other hand, consider carefully the example and teaching of Jesus and Paul, and know that each of us shall give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12).