Monday, October 25, 2010

Christian Maturity Means Carrying Extra Weight

Last weekend, I spent three days and two nights backpacking in the mountain trails of Big Bend National Park. This was my first backpacking experience. The remote area we were camping had no water, and we were several miles from the Chisos Basin water supply. That meant we had to pack in all of our own water, as well as food and supplies. As I started up the path with my friends Tommy and Warren carrying my 50lb. pack, I began to realize that the extra weight on my back and shoulders raised the ante for my footing. Any person walking in rocky, mountain terrain needs to be sure-footed. However, carrying that extra weight meant that each step needed to be made with at least a bit of thought, otherwise the weight of the pack would cause me to stumble a lot easier than if I was not carrying it. As I began watching the terrain, I found that I was missing some of the amazing scenery because my head was down focused on the path ahead. Nonetheless, I continued to carefully calculate each step of my journey until I reached my destination.

While planning my steps occupied a large amount of brain power, I was able to spare a few neurons to recall a passage in I Corinthians where Paul is talking about having freedom in Christ. Apparently, there was some food that had been sacrificed to pagan idols that was being sold in the street markets of Corinth. Some mature believers were buying it and eating it with a clear conscience (after all, isn't all food from God, anyway?) while some younger in their faith were appalled by their actions (after all, it had been dedicated for worship of false deities, right?) So what Paul essentially says is that it is okay for Christians to eat this food, however, if there are believers who might have a problem with that, don't do it because it will cause them to stumble in their faith.

Last time I checked, modern Christians don't swing through the McDonald's drive-thru and order a #4 Pagan Sacrifice Special with fries and a Coke. But there are plenty of things of which we partake and enjoy that could potentially cause another believer to stumble. Maybe it's the occasional cigar or the bottle of wine on a special occasion. Maybe it's an R-rated movie or a guy who prays with his hat on. It could be that you enjoy the music of a particular artist which some might think is unbecoming of a Christian. (I'm not talking about perpetual sin, but rather things that Christians do that may be misconstrued by others) Regardless of what freedoms we have in Christ, mature believers are all carrying a pack...a pack filled with the expectations of younger believers who are hanging on their every move as examples of the Christian life. This extra weight means that Christians need to be careful what freedoms they exercise and the context in which they do those things. Extra weight means that it is easier to stumble, and each step should be made with caution.

So what freedoms do you have in Christ? What things have you done that have been perceived negatively by others? Do you feel like being a Christian means living in a fishbowl?

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