1 Corinthians 10:23-24 CEB
23 Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. 24 No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other.
“Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! Those crazy protesters need to start caring about other people, like their own parents, instead of fussing because they can’t get a haircut!”
I admit that was what I first thought on reading these verses today. It is so tempting to bring passages like this forward 2,000 years and apply them to our own ideas about current situations, even though they really don’t have anything to do with those situations. This could look like a reference to the Constitution and the rights granted therein. But there was no Constitution in the year 60-something.
These words were written in a discussion about whether meats sacrificed to an idol were acceptable food for Christians. Peter and Paul both had been preaching that Gentile Christians need not be circumcised or follow the Laws of Moses. Naturally, some wanted to take this and run with it. So Paul had to come back and say, “No. That’s not what we mean.” I like the way Eugene Peterson says it in the Message.
“23-24 Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.
Our foremost efforts should be to help others live well. And while this could still be applied to people running around without masks and crowding the beaches as if there is no danger of contagion, I have found it is generally best to apply verses like these to my own attitudes and behaviors instead of using them to beat up someone else.
It’s love your neighbor all over again. If my words or actions will cause harm to someone else, I need to re-think what I am doing. I have learned that almost nothing I do is all about me. Someone else will be affected by my words and actions even if I think otherwise. My responsibility is to evaluate my choices and decisions so that they are more likely to benefit the other than harm them.
God, thank you for the gift of free will. Help us, we pray, use our freedom to make choices beneficial to all of your creation. Amen.