All Things Are Permitted

There’s a very simple bit of theology that the church in general doesn’t seem to have caught onto yet: According to the Bible, we can do whatever we want to do (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Does the Bible really tell us we’re free to sin? Yes, technically it does. We can lie, cheat, steal, and even kill, and we’re still covered by grace. In fact, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.

However… just because we CAN do whatever we want doesn’t mean we SHOULD do whatever we want. While 1 Corinthians 6:12 does tell us that everything is permitted (or lawful, depending on your translation), it goes on to remind us that not everything is expedient or profitable. Remember, your actions are going to have consequences, both to you and to others.

And not only do we have to consider the possible negative consequences, there’s the fact that the more we give in to harmful desires, the more we can become enslaved to harmful habits. Since the whole point of Christianity is supposed to be freedom (it’s for freedom you’ve been set free, Paul says in his letter to the Galatians), being enslaved by harmful desires is no better than being enslaved to religion.

The bottom line is, don’t let any religious leader tell you you’re not allowed to do something, but it’s also a bad idea to let any habit or desire rule your life. And always consider what the consequences of your actions might be, not only to yourself, but to others as well.

That being said, not everything that we’ve been taught to believe is sinful or harmful by our religious leaders actually is sinful or harmful. I brought up one of these “sins” in my recent post on premarital sex. The problem is, there’s a lot of confusion, and even outright misinformation, about some of the things that we’ve been taught are wrong to do. This means we should each reevaluate our ideas of what some of the things we might personally need to avoid are, but we also need to keep in mind that some of the things which might be harmful or habit forming for me might not be the same for you, and vice versa.

However, there’s still one more factor to consider. Even if we know that an activity is completely harmless to us, some of our brothers and sisters won’t have the same understanding we do, which can lead them into harmful habits themselves if they don’t understand proper balance. Similarly, many of them (most of them, in all honestly) don’t have very strong faith in God’s grace, and publicly practicing certain activities they consider to be sinful can cause some of them to stumble at times, so abstinence, at least publicly, might be the advisable course of action in some situations (though less often than you might think. Helping someone remain “weak” in their faith isn’t necessarily doing either of you any favours). This, of course, brings up all sorts of other questions, but those will have to wait for another post, or at least the comments section.

Disclaimer: Just because something is covered by grace or is not against God’s law doesn’t mean it isn’t against one of man’s laws. This post is not meant to encourage anyone to break any of the laws of the land where they live, as unjust as certain laws may be.

  • http://scientificuniversalist.blogspot.com/ Sammy

    The typical answer to this I heard in church so often when I was a child would be something along the lines that a person who continues to sin, even though he/she has converted to Christianity, was not a really a “true” Christian to begin with. The same explanation was used anytime a Christian would commit some terrible crime (such as murder, rape, molestation of children, embezzlement of church money, etc.) and appeared on the national news. Again, they were not a “true” Christian. It was (and still is) an easy way to dismiss criticisms of Christianity based on the actions of these so-called false Christians.

    1 Corinthians 6:12 is an interesting verse. Honestly, I had never given it much thought before. I do not disagree with your analysis. Yes, I do have the freedom to do whatever I want. It is one of the amazing things about being a universalist. Even if I kill a dozen people, I still believe God will love me and forgive me. But, of course, there are consequences for killing a dozen people. Man’s punishment could be life in prison or even the death penalty. God’s punishment is unknown. Maybe being forced to feel the pain I inflicted on my victims and their friends and families? However, the best thing about being a universalist is how it has changed my view on human suffering. Because I know that God loves all people unconditionally, I am able see their suffering as my own. Universalism means that, while I could kill a dozen people, I never would. The thought is beyond revolting. While I am far from perfect, universalism has freed me from much of the selfishness and righteous holier-than-thou attitude that had developed from my conservative Christian upbringing.

  • Anonymous

    That’s interesting. 
     
    “Yes, I do have the freedom to do whatever I want. Even if I kill a dozen people, I still believe God will love me and forgive me.”

    And even though God will still love you, your works, good or bad, are written down in the Book of Life and you are judged by what is written there — that’s what the bible says. Every man will be judged by his works.

    So I believe that Paul’s epistles a somewhat misleading since ‘forgiveness’ doesn’t mean that your works are erased or even not held against you. God’s love is eternal, but as a Good Father, he also chastises for OUR benefit . For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (Heb 12:6-8)

    1 Corinthians 6:12 may say that everything is permitted… based on Paul’s premise that ‘we are not under the law but under grace’, but STILL men are judged by their works (good OR bad) 

    As Jesus said: But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Mat 12:36, 37)

    and even Paul said: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2Co 5:10)

    And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:12)

    Be not deceived… whatSOEVER a man soweth that shall he also reap.

  • http://www.DrewCosten.com Drew Costen

    As I said in the post, there are definitely consequences to our actions.

    That said, I remain very “Pauline” in my Christianity at the moment in the sense that I believe we are not under the law. In fact, I don’t believe that we Gentiles were ever under the law. That was for Jews only, and it ended for them as well at the cross.