Monday, January 3, 2011

All things are Permissible.... BUT

St. Paul teaches us in First Corinthians 10:23-24:

“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.

In practice, in practical terms, as fallen human beings, we hate this verse and desire to violate it on one side or the other.

There are those who wish to condemn as impermissible any practice they don't like. Anything that is foolish or unwise is responded to with claims that "You can't do that" or "If you do that you violate ______." There is a desire to establish order by the addition of rules - rules to prevent tomfoolery.

Of course, there are those who violate these verses on the other side. There are those who say, "All things are Lawful -- therefore I can do whatever I want and you can't say anything against it." There is the desire to do what one wants, irregardless of what anyone else wants, thinks, or is impacted.

Both of these approaches end up focusing on the first clauses, when the weight and emphasis is placed by Paul upon the second clauses.

The debate over whether or not something is "permissible" often misses the point. The question is not to be whether or not something is permissible, whether you "can" or you "can't" do something. That discussion will always be reduced to legal wrangling.

The question that Paul would have us ponder is whether or not our actions are helpful, whether or not they build up, whether or not the action is done for the good of the neighbor.

We want the knockout blow. We want to say, "See, you can't do that" and have the discussion end there. We want to say, "See, I CAN do that" and have the discussion end there. We want one simple phrase so that then we can feel justified in what we do or do not do.

But that is not the way of the Christian life. Our goal is not to deliver the knockout blow, but to be helpful to our neighbor. It is not to defeat our neighbor, but to teach them up so that they are built up. We are called not to serve ourselves but to show love to our neighbor in all things.

Even when they are doing something we disagree with, even when they unjustly tell us that we are wrong.


Anonymous said...

irregardless is not a word. irrespective or regardless

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Poppycock! Irregardless is indeed a word. Did you understand what I meant? Was there communication? Then indeed, "irregardless" is indeed at word that has entered into common American usage and is completely understandible to virtually every speaker of the language.

Now it may be that Webster or even Oxford do not like it the word - to which I say, "tough." Those who study and record the changes to language do not define it; the Philologist observes, not commands! Indeed, the actual lover of English, one who marvels at the history and growth of our fair tongue will simply chalk this up to another example of Latin prefixes being misapplied, as has happened often enough in our linguistic history.

Not a word... bah! Away with your linguistic tyranny that only seeks wanton destruction! Away, oh nameless one, with your random, vague critiques that are totally tangential to the points made at hand! Down with the linguistic elitists! Down with the enforcers of shibboleth! Harrumph, I say! Harrumph!

Mike Baker said...

I'm not sure "Poppycock" is a word either...

...I know that it is a very yummy caramel snack.

...and a very bizzare entry in last year's "America's Got Talent" competition on NBC.

I'm not sure about "Shibboleth" either...

...was that one of the critters in Alice in Wonderland? ;)

Mike Baker said...

I would also point out that...

"irregardless is not a word." not a proper sentence because it lacks a capital letter at the beginning of the thought. It should be:

"Irregardless is not a word."

Turnabout is fair play. :P