The oppressive brother — keyword: oppressive. Oppressive is not necessarily a word that you would think should apply to those who call themselves a child of God. Yet, in the history of those who proclaim to be a child of God, there are folks who have fought wars because others chose not to believe in Christ. On the other hand, there are many people who have used their “faith” to burden and hurt others. Would Christ really want us to act in such a manner in His name?
Mistaken our Liberty
Preaching on the conduct of a Christian and preaching on the role of a Christian is something I take very seriously. (You have probably heard me say that before.) I feel it’s important to preach about this repeatedly because of how many of us envision our roles as a Christian. I believe that many of us are terribly mistaken or simply do not fully understand what the role of a Christian should be in our society.
In my key verse for today, you will see that Paul defines a very clear role for the believer in the community and society in which he or she lives in. Paul defines this role but first speaking of a liberty that the believer has been called to. The liberty (freedom) that Paul speaks of here is the liberty given to the believer through faith in Christ.
Defining this freedom
When He was in the world, Christ said to the Jews (John 8:32), “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This truth is that Jesus is Christ and Lord of lords. Jesus was crucified on a cross, dying for our sins, and then resurrected from the grave to show His power over sin.
Jesus told us that anybody who believed in Him would not perish but have life. What causes one to perish eternally is the punishment of their sin for being found guilty. The thing that saves us from that verdict and punishment is salvation (forgiveness) of those sins through Christ. Through Christ, we are free from the bondage of sin (Rom. 6:18).
So, how should we live in this liberty? You see, I believe this liberty (freedom) that we have received is one in which we should honor, right? We will not face the Lord’s punishment of sin, and for that, we should be very grateful to the Lord. Yet, I must ask the question as to whether or not we act in a way in which we are grateful for His grace and the liberty we have received?
Living with our Liberty
Again, I ask you the question, how do you believe we should live with the grace we are under and the liberty which we have received? This should be a question that is easy for the believer to answer. Paul actually gives us an answer in my key verse for today. Paul says, “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh”. What do you believe that means?
What Paul is essentially saying here is to not abuse the liberty that you have received through the grace of God. In other words, do not abuse the love that God has shown towards you! Yet, this is the part where many of us falter. There are many “believers” and “Christians” today who are absolutely abusing their liberty.
Abusers of God’s love
How do we abuse our liberty? Earlier this year, I preached about two types of believers in a series of sermons – Living Spiritually in the Gray – that I want to bring up again here. There is a “believer” who lives their life abusing God’s love towards them by still living life as a sinner. They believe that God’s grace sets them free to sin even more – that is not true! The Lord’s grace sets us free from sin; it does not set us free to sin!
The other “believer” is one who knows the law and the commandments better than anybody; they are strict keepers of it. In their way, they use their liberty to grieve and burden others in adherence to what has become their way. There are Christians today who will tell you that the role of the believer is to “speak the truth”.
Certainly nothing sounds wrong about that, right? Yet this truth becomes their own version of the truth (rules) by which they live by and use to burden others to live by! To them, you must dress a certain way, speak a certain, and you cannot do anything. In other words, there are many people today who abuse their liberty by being the oppressive brother.
They will tell you every sin there is, and they will not stop there, they’ll point out your every sin! For example: wearing lipstick is a sin to some. The things you choose to eat can even be a sin. If you’re wearing too tight of clothes or little clothing at all, that is a sin to some. Jesus said to us to go into the world and preach (share) the gospel – the goods news (Mark. 16:15-16). The good news is not that other people are sinners but that all people can be forgiven and saved from their sins! (I question any person that believes they are sharing the good news by simply condemning others of their sins.)
Warning from Paul
Paul, I believe, saw such behavior being something that followers of Christ could be capable of. He warned the Corinthians not to be a stumbling block to others (1 Cor. 8:9). Paul was saying, do not be a burden to others and do not cause others to falter. The word I use today is oppress — do not oppress others. To oppress: to crush or burden by abuse of power or authority.
Our faith – what we believe – should not be used in a manner that hurts, crushes, or burdens anybody. That is not how we should move or act through our faith in the Lord! If we are going to be the believer that points to the sins of others, we must be willing to acknowledge a few things. First: God has given all men the freedom to choose to believe in Him! Second: We must be willing to accept that people will choose to live how they wish! Third: If we’re going to acknowledge the sins of others, we must be willing to acknowledge our own sins but be willing to edify others.
The one thing Paul often did was remind those who had become believers to remember what they once were – a sinner (Rom. 5:8). As I preached a couple Sundays ago, we are justified sinners and we should always remember that. Remembering this is what keeps the believer humble and grounded. There are too many Christians who believe themselves to be perfect and they look down on others. God has been patient with us and given us all the opportunity to grow, should we not do the same for others?
Use Your Liberty to Love
The way we answer that question says a lot about our faith; it says a lot about us as the children of God. Paul said in my key verse not to abuse our liberty (the grace we have received) but, through love, serve. As I have preached time and time again, as stewards of the Lord, our service is a service done out of love. We should love everybody (our neighbor), even our enemies, as we would love our own selves
Over the past few weeks, months, and years, I have watched so-called believers doing the worst. Those who are in need of help, have been berated by those capable of helping. When others have looked for people to stand with them in the seeking of justice, many so-called believers have found the means to oppose. In a time where we should be considering all of those around us, many so-called believers have mocked and bemoaned the situation.
Our Christianity cannot be a Mirage
I had and have really good parents that ingrained me with the concept of treating others the right way because you never know who help you may need. Our Christianity should not be a mirage! Our faith in the Lord should not be a mirage! Over the past couple of months, I have been ending sermons by saying, you don’t have to know what someone is going through to treat them with grace. Loving people should be as easy as breathing for the believer. We should not ever work to cause pain, hurt, or burden to the people around us.
Paul wrote that love does not behave rudely nor thinks evil, but it suffers long and is kind; it does not rejoice in iniquity (1 Cor. 13:4-6). Scripture makes it very clear the role that the Christian should take on in our society – a role born out of love. Through love, we deal with one another with patience and understanding. With love we should work to lift others up from whatever may be burdening them and help them stand on both feet. Our love should never oppress, but seek to support as best as we can.