“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23, 24)
Here in the UK we are experiencing an opening up for freedoms from the restrictions of the Covid pandemic. Things that we haven’t been able to do for so long we are able to do once more. Even in church life, we are finally able to sing God’s praises once again in the building. As we undergo this expansion of freedom, it is helpful for us to consider the goal of freedom.
We tend to think about freedom as our own personal freedoms. Freedom is about what I am allowed to do, and a lack of freedom is about what I am prevented from doing. That’s certainly how the Corinthian church saw it. They knew that they had freedom in Christ, so their motto was “I have the right to do anything!”
As Paul teaches the Corinthians, he helps them to see that freedom isn’t just about me. To be truly free I need to think not only about what I am allowed to do, but also how those actions affect others.
“I have the right to do anything!” Said the Corinthians. ‘Sure,’ says Paul, ‘But not everything is helpful or beneficial. Not everything is constructive. Not everything you might want to do builds others up and helps them.”
Paul goes on to tell them the goal of freedom: “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Freedom should not be an excuse for selfishness. I cannot act in freedom by doing whatever I want without regard for other people. The good of others is the goal of freedom.
As we move into a world with expanding freedoms from Covid restrictions, we need to consider the good of others. I may dislike wearing a face covering, for example, and delight in the fact that I am no longer obliged to do so by law. But perhaps I might be willing to wear a covering in certain places for the good of others? To exercise my freedom to wear a mask, not just the freedom to remove one?
We will all be in different places with Covid restrictions and the freedom to be released from them. It’s good to acknowledge that and respect each other’s opinion. But let’s make the good of others the goal in exercising freedom, and allow that to determine our direction now and into the future.