Christian liberty regarding things God has not forbidden is a precious blessing of the gospel as well as one of the most difficult aspects of Christian living to navigate. On the one hand, believers who understand that we are free in Christ to enjoy what God has not outlawed must take care when they are around less mature believers who do not understand this principle. To flaunt our liberty in front of such people might encourage them to act against their consciences and do what they think is a sin. The thing itself may not be a sin objectively according to God’s moral law, but it is a sin to engage in it if one believes it to be evil. To do what one believes to be forbidden is to do what one believes our holy God has outlawed, so it is an act of defiance toward the Lord, not submission. It is not an act that proceeds from faith, and whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). Therefore, mature believers who have consciences more fully formed by God’s Word must be careful not to make a show of their liberty in front of less mature believers lest they lead such believers astray. This is one of Paul’s points in 1 Corinthians 10:23–29 and Romans 14:1–15:7.
On the other hand, the Apostle also tells us in those same passages that we must not submit to what Dr. R.C. Sproul called “the tyranny of the weaker brother.” Weaker believers may not impose their scruples on stronger believers or demand that the church do the same. In fact, weaker believers have the responsibility to grow in their understanding of Christian freedom. Paul’s letters were read aloud in their entirety to Christian congregations in the first century. The same Christians who heard that stronger believers should use their liberty wisely also heard that many of the scruples they had about food and drink were ill-founded. They were to understand this and begin to change their views accordingly.
As we seek to navigate issues of Christian liberty, we will not go far wrong if we heed Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 10:31 to do all things to the glory of God. This entails, among other things, seeking to act according to love for other believers, being willing to not take advantage of our freedoms when it might cause harm. We are to seek to not give unnecessary offense, but we are to serve others. In so doing, we imitate Christ, who did not make use of His sovereign freedom for His own advantage at our expense but rather took the form of a servant (10:32–11:1; see Phil. 2:5–11).