Americans are, if nothing else, individualists. It’s difficult for us to understand the concept of “corporate” or “group” because our country was founded on the idea of the individual going forth and conquering to achieve his goals. Other cultures are not so individualistically minded, but work together over long periods for the corporate good. But ultimately every sinner (meaning every human being) struggles with the idea of stepping back and allowing someone else to achieve, to have, to succeed.
Father God deals with us both corporately and individually; Christ died for us both corporately (the elect) and individually (the sinner). And the Spirit is concerned with how we interact, individuals, with each other, the group.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 RSV
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
Here Paul tells us two things: (1) that we are freed from the constraints of the Law, and (2) that within that freedom, our constraint is that everything we do is to be directed to the good of those around us. In other words, we cannot use our freedom to satisfy our own desires, but must also, in every choice, consider the edification, the spiritual well-being of those around us.
It seems very popular these days to tout the idea of spiritual freedom. I’ve heard often, from the pulpit, from books, from other Christians, about the freedom that we have in Christ. There is no longer any rule upon us; we are free to do as we choose in Christ. The thing is, as Paul states here, that freedom ends at the point where it fails to bring good to those around us.
And before we think there is a constraint on who is our neighbor, the Lord Jesus already admonished us that our “neighbor” even includes our enemies (the parable of the Good Samaritan).
Thus, as Christians, we have a higher calling when it comes to what we may choose, what we may do. Our ultimate motivation must be not our own good, but the good of those around us. Is what we’re doing building up our family, our friends, our co-workers? I was just reading today (in Tozer’s That Incredible Christian):
“The truth is that while Christ dwells in the believer’s new nature, He has strong competition from the believer’s old nature. The warfare between the old and the new goes on continually in most believers. This is accepted as inevitable, but the New Testament does not so teach. A prayerful study of Romans 6 to 8 points the way to victory. If Christ is allowed complete sway He will live in us as He lived in Galilee.” (p. 40).