RENDERING GOOD WITHOUT OFFENSE Edit
"Ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for lie maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. "-Matthew 5:45.
It is one of the blessed privileges of the real children of God to be always free to do good. The children of the divine Father are led by the spirit of divine love. (Romans 8:14) They enjoy that liberty of the sons of Cod at present denied to a world lying in the evil one, but into which in due time shortly we believe the whole world will be inducted. As says the Word: "The earnest expectation [the good things earnestly desired] of creation [of all created beings] waiteth for the manifestation [in glory and in power to bless] of the sons of God [the divinely begotten children of the God of love]. Because creation itself also [as well as the children] shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption [of death and of evil conditions, ideas, thoughts and feelings] into the glorious liberty of the children of God."-Romans 8:19, 21.
LIBERTY WHERE WITH CHRIST MAKES FREE
Laws are for the restraint of beings in bondage to hatred, envy, covetousness, wrath, lasciviousness, selfish ambition and other fruitage of fallen flesh. (Galatians 5:19-21) But if any 'be led by the spirit, they are not under the law,' and their character-fruitage will be "love, joy, peace long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control." Against the children of God, animated by such a spirit there is and can be no law. (Galatians 5:22, 23) "For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men." (Romans 14:18) If good men do not approve of Jehovah's children it is because they do not understand them, or because they regard over-much the inevitable errors which may be sequels to the beat of intentions - "For that [evil] which I do I allow not; but what I hate, that do I. It is no more I that do it, but sin [imperfection - the fallen condition] that dwelleth in me. For in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will [to do perfectly] is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. I delight in the law of God [the royal law of love] after the inner man [the new mind]; but I see another law in my [imperfect fleshly] members, warring against the law of my [new] mind, and bringing me [who purpose and try to do the very best] into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Romans 7:1.5-23) So when God's children, among whom was the great Apostle Paul, try their very best, they necessarily do and say many things in ways unpleasing to even the best t of men, and not approved by them.
Not only is the flesh fallen, but the brain and mind are imperfect. How poor are our memories! How faultily we grasp and understand things said and done! How deficient all are in so acting and speaking as fully to measure up to even customary conditions. Then when conditions change, how slow are our minds in seeing the change and in understanding its significance. But with conditions changing from day to day how important that all should know about the changes, so as to be prepared to think and act appropriately.
As a rule, when good-minded people come to understand the real good intention and effort back of imperfect actions, they make the proper allowance, and approve those who are trying to do good. The new creature in Christ Jesus, being absolutely well-intentioned in everything, is subject to none of the laws directed at the ill-intentioned. Being full of the divine spirit of love he has a true Christian love for everyone and tries to lay down even his life for his fellow sons of God, and as he can, for all men. "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all, especially unto them who are of the household of faith."-Galatians 13:10.
The true Christian has liberty to do anything that can be done in the spirit of Christian love. His compass ever points to the star of divine love. The loving Master said to his disciples: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34) So the faithful Christian always tries to avoid doing evil, and to do only that which is good. However much his course may seem to alter in direction, divine love is and remains his lode-star. He may, under varying natural conditions, in matters not of principle, do one thing today and the direct opposite tomorrow. He may appear inconsistent in his acts, but to God his heart is always consistent. As to principle a Christian is faithful but in the application of a principle to given cases, the resultant action may vary as widely as the conditions and circumstances of the cases.
ESSENTIALS, UNITY - NON-ESSENTIALS, CHARITY
There are certain principles, such as the "ransom for all," which are forever vital, but certain subordinate principles may from time to time, with changed conditions, new information, or a new viewpoint be clearly seen to be not necessarily vital. It was vital for a Hebrew to keep himself Levitically undefiled, but after Pentecost this was no longer a vital principle; it was vital that no one but a priest eat the "shewbread"; but "David when he was an hungered, entered into the house of the Lord and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, but only for the priests." (Matthew 12:3, 4) It is vital, according to Paul, for brothers in Christ to "avoid contentions" (Titus 3:9); but "Paul thought not good to take him [John Mark] with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they [Barnabas and Paul, who had 'lived in all good conscience before God'-Acts 23:1] departed asunder one from the other." -Acts 15:38, 39. In apostolic times some Christians made it a matter of principle to "observe the days, months, times and years" (Galatians 4:10) of the Hebrew ritual; others did not. "One believed that he might eat all things; another who was weak [in the faith] eateth herbs." (Romans 14:2) "And," Bays Paul, "he that doubteth is damned [judged] if he eat, because he eateth not of faith [with confidence that it is proper]; for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." (Romans 14:23) In modern times one Christian can eat pork, another can not; one can observe Sunday, another Saturday, and still another can keep all days holy to God; one can engage in temperance work, another cannot; one can own an automobile, another cannot. At one time a Christian feels unable to do certain things; later, with additional knowledge or thought, he can do them with a good conscience.
A Christian might not have been able conscientiously to engage in the military activities of a country offering only combatant service: later, when the opportunity is enlarged so that he may choose some good work such as the hospital or ambulance service, he may with a free conscience take such service. A Christian to whom may have been presented the perverted viewpoint that the Red Cross work is only the aiding of that killing which is against his conscience, cannot help the Red Cross; then he gains the broader viewpoint that the Red Cross is the embodiment of helping the helpless, and he finds himself able and willing to help the Red Cross according to ability and opportunity. A Christian, unwilling to kill, may have been conscientiously enable to buy government bonds; later he considers what great blessings he has received under his government, and realizes that the nation is in trouble and facing dangers to its liberty, and he feels himself conscientiously able to lend some money to the country, just as he would lend to a friend in distress.
The Christian with the broadest mind is the one who is best informed Scripturally. That Christian who is able to see from but one viewpoint is in danger of being whet St. Paul calls "weak," in the sense that his inability to see all around a question limits his sphere of action. Narrow-mindedness invites troubles and persecutions for causes not even indirectly connected with true Christianity. Such trouble may usually well be avoided, and should be avoided in order that such trials or persecutions which are our portion may come upon the clear-cut issue of faithfulness in the consecrated life and not for other causes. The true footstep follower of Christ will have enough to suffer as a Christian. He will do his best to study all sides of every question and remove from himself causes for offense, other than his truly Christian and religious beliefs and principles which are vital.
"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he [Christ in you] is evil spoken of, but on your part [in you as a new creature] he is glorified; but let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's affairs. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf."-1 Peter 4:14-10.