Christian Liberty is for Slavery

“The vision Peter had at Joppa did not consist of a sheet from heaven filled with unclean DVDs, with Peter being told to arise and watch.” –Douglas Wilson

Douglas Wilson’s quote gets to the heart of an extraordinary sermon on Christian liberty by our Kentucky pastor Ryan Fullerton.  In listening to this sermon, we could not help but to see how we tend to think of Christian Liberty as being mainly for our own gratification.  However, it is surprising to realize that God gave us this liberty so that we can use it to enslave ourselves to others.  In the words of Paul, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” (1 Cor 9:19).  Paul had been loosed from the strict regulations of Judaism so that he could have the freedom to put himself right back under the Judaic law in order to preach to the Jews and then turn right around and shed himself of this law when he was a missionary to the Gentiles.  Paul, and the rest of us, were given freedom from the law so that we could love others by enslaving ourselves to foreign customs for the purpose of sharing the Gospel.

As this applies specifically to foreign missions, sometimes it feels to us that we are not taking full advantage of our Christian freedoms because we are leaving America.  Here we have the freedom to eat and drink whatever we want, if we want to eat organic food we can eat only organic food, we can dress in a way that is comfortable to us, enjoy air conditioning, paved roads, watch movies, and so on.  God has given us the freedom to enjoy these things, so why not utilize this freedom and enjoy them?  Because the primary purpose of Christian liberty is Love and specifically a love for the lost.  It is a tool given to us by God that gives us a “free pass” to act like those we are trying to win to Christ.  So in a sense missionaries are not squandering their liberty but instead utilizing it.
Here’s a great example: No one in the US would argue that Christians have complete freedom to cross their legs when they sit down.  Yet, in Cameroon, the missionaries have observed that to cross one’s legs is interpreted as arrogance by the others in the room.  Therefore the missionaries in Cameroon choose to enslave themselves to the norms of Cameroonian culture so as to not offend.  Try not crossing your legs for a day, it is not only hard to remember, it is uncomfortable!  So, it is not that Christian Liberty is opening the door to more options for self-pleasure, but instead more options for self sacrifice.
So, thank you Pastor Ryan and thank you Paul for reminding us that we are actually utilizing more of our Christian liberty when we dive into a culture we are trying to win.
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”  1 Corinthians 9:19-23 

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator among the Kwakum people of Cameroon.