The Weaker Brother

“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.”

— 1 Corinthians 8:9

God has given us tremendous liberty. He has freed us from all sin. Yet our liberty doesn’t come without limits. According to Scripture we have three classes of actions: those commanded by God, those forbidden by God, and those which God neither commands nor forbids—“things indifferent.” To these “things indifferent,” we must apply our liberty carefully. If we, in our liberty, choose an action that causes a weak brother or sister to stumble in the faith, then we become responsible for his or her downfall.

In Corinthians, Paul addresses a “thing indifferent,” an issue that the Corinthians had hotly debated: whether or not to eat meat offered to idols. We can’t relate to this issue since we don’t sacrifice meat to idols these days, but we can consider it in the same light as the issue of whether or not to drink alcohol. In the Corinthian’s situation, it appears that the stronger brethren wrote to Paul, and since Paul championed liberty, the brethren expected him to say they could eat the meat. But instead, Paul told them that while nothing forbade them from eating it, they shouldn’t do anything that would cause their weaker brethren to stumble. This principle has become known as the “Royal Law of Love.” We must freely forsake our liberties for the sake of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters.

In one sense, the weak always control our lives. Often the baby decides whether you go out or stay home. The sick child decides what you do in the evening. The sprained ankle decides the rest of your physical activity. In the same way, we must place the spiritual needs of our weaker brothers and sisters ahead of our desire to indulge our liberty.

As our ultimate example of this, we can look to Jesus. Because of our liberty, we may feel we have rights to certain “things indifferent.” We may resent having to give up those rights for the sake of our weaker brethren. But for us, weak as we are, Jesus gave up His rights—the right to sit at the right hand of the father, the right to be adored, the right to be worshiped and ministered to by the angels.

Today, thank the Lord for your liberty. And if you have a choice about doing something that would make a weaker brother or sister stumble, choose Christ’s Royal Law of Love and sacrifice your rights for that person’s spiritual well-being.

“Love sacrifices all things to bless the thing it loves.”
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton