All Things Are Lawful, But Not Necessarily Helpful

One of the things I’ve taken to doing lately is going through UpperRoom.org’s devotional every morning as part of this insane checklist I do every day. [You laugh, but I get a lot done because of this checklist.] UR ain’t perfect—there are times when I stare at it and wonder where the editorial staff is—but, if nothing else, it prompts me to read through the Bible every morning.

Today’s devotional—and I haven’t even read the UR part, just the Bible part, as I type this—dealt with Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:

23“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—29I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

31So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

1 Cor. 10:23-33, English Standard Version

I’ve highlighted the bit that hit me the most. It reminded me of two things my friend Bryan has written recently. Bryan is active with his church’s youth group, and the Weblog he maintains on Xanga [I know, I know] has seen him mention the drinking of alcohol in the past. One of the elders at his church brought it up to him, and so Bryan set out to write a clear defense of the appropriate consumption of alcohol by a Christian. I think that the did an excellent job with all that, and I’ve told him so on the phone.

The other thing, though, is that Bryan zinged me in a comment for my often profane speech. He and I talked soon after that on the phone about something else, and I brought it up. [I wish I’d brought it up with a tone of penitence and gratitude, but I don’t think that I can honestly say that I did.] He said that the discussion had come up in his church group about such things, and that he’d thought of me. That stung, but only because it was the truth.

See, when folks talk about all this “speaking the truth in love” stuff, this is the kind of thing that they mean. Thank you again, Bryan, for setting me straight on this.