“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.[…] You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.
Paul, 1 Cor. 6:12, 20
I still remember the fateful day that my (then) 8 year-old son looked at me after tanking six Taco Bell tacos on his own. He was so excited to impress me with his growing appetite, as I sat there dumbfounded at how this offspring of mine was so quickly surpassing my own eating limits. But the euphoria was short-lived. The tide had turned and he was now entering into the “regret phase” where gluttony begins to bring its own form of punishment. His eyes locked on mine as he realized that his body was communicating in no uncertain terms that a line had been crossed. He sat there, his face turning a little yellowish, focusing on deep breaths. “What are we learning right now, bud?” I cautiously asked. Without much hesitation, he spoke up slowly....
"Just because you can.... doesn’t mean you should."
We sat there and started laughing together, both at the cleverness of a witty response, and at the important truth that it held.
It’s true, isn’t it? We have a lot of freedom to do a lot of things…. But the reality is that freedom can be used for things that end up hindering life more than bringing it.
Life with Jesus is truly full of grace, and truly full of freedom. We no longer live with a cloud of guilt hanging over us for every mistake we make. We don’t walk around as if we are hopeless failures, because we know we are loved in spite of our mistakes. We are given a new life free of condemnation. Additionally, Jesus sets us free from a life of legalism, and we can experience joy in new ways.
But with that freedom comes a transformed heart, which should lead to transformed actions.
A group of men in Corinth had experienced a taste of that freedom in Christ. Yet they had forgotten that freedom is never given for self-indulgence, but for people to live in peace with God and love others better. They were using a slogan, “I have the right to do anything” in order to take part in the same elite cultural banquets they had been a part of previously, which frequently involved excessive drinking, eating, and even prostitution afterwards. Paul sees that they have misunderstood freedom, and their bodies were being mistreated because of it. Rather than celebrating their freedom to do anything, they should celebrate that they have been set free and act with wisdom, letting nothing control their hearts or minds except Jesus.
We must understand, the body is incredibly important, and how we treat it matters. Paul even reminds his hearers that they will one day be raised again- so don’t throw your bodies around as if they don’t have meaning!
Today our issues may be different than the Corinthians. Maybe you aren’t celebrating freedom by overeating, overdrinking, or prostitution at an idol party. But maybe you work yourself sick. Or maybe you put unhealthy food into your body constantly. Or maybe you starve yourself so that you look good to others. Or maybe you disrespect your body by treating sexuality haphazardly.
No, we are not under condemnation. What good news! But maybe we need to be reminded that what we do with ourselves – how we treat our bodies and others’ bodies-- is of eternal significance. Bodies matter.
I chuckled with my son that day because I knew well his words. I have done things that I could-- never asking if I should. But as we grow with Jesus, we will continue to move into deeper ways of seeing our freedom through a lens of love rather than entitlement.
Jesus, set me free to live well with You and others today with my body, mind, and spirit.