A few years ago, I went to hang out with a friend at a sports bar. It had big TVs, loud music and chicken wings so spicy you sweat when you smell them.
My new friend and I just recently met at church and we hit it off immediately. It was one of those instant connections that you feel with someone once in a blue moon. I was looking forward to hanging out and getting to know him better.
My friend was raving about the wings so I was anxious to try them. Once we were seated a young, peppy waitress came over to take our order.
“Can I get you something to drink? We have two for one beers on draft.”
My eyes scanned his face to see his reaction but it was buried in the menu as if he was reading the fine print. I wished I was a mind reader in that moment because I was thinking that beer and wings sounded like a winning combo.
He seemed like a mature Christian. Surely he would be fine with a beer with his wings, right?
As much as I wanted to order a cold one, I got a check in my spirit. I smiled at the waitress and told her I would have a Coke. She looked over to my friend and with what may have been a look of relief on his face, he said he would have the same.
Not long after we ordered, the wings arrived looking as if they were manna from heaven. They were even better than he let on. As we devoured the wings, I was thinking how much better they would taste with some suds.
Our conversation bounced around from subject to subject and I could see that he was a solid guy. He was thoughtful and well-spoken. The kind of guy who appeared to have a good grip of his freedom in Christ.
Just as I began to doubt my choice of beverage, he began to share about his past. He spoke of being a recovering addict. He told me of his struggles with drugs and alcohol for years before hitting rock bottom and coming back to his faith.
He shared stories of relapsing and getting sucked back into that world. Because of his struggles, he takes precautions to stay away from that life at all costs. He said that his involvement in that lifestyle was something he never wanted anyone to experience.
I nodded and peppered him with questions as I love to do when learning about a new friend.
And then he revealed the reason I got a check in my spirit.
He believes Christians should never tempt themselves with that lifestyle in any way. Which obviously includes alcohol. It’s just not worth it, he said.
As much as I knew he had a point, I also knew that I’ve never had an issue with alcohol in my life. I never lived that lifestyle so the occasional beer has never been a problem for me.
But what I realized is that we had two completely different experiences. His was no less valid than mine. The answer he settled on wasn’t the one I settled on but it didn’t have to be. And then I asked myself this question.
If exercising my freedom causes my friend to be reminded of his own struggles, is it really freedom?
I decided not to even bring up my position on the subject. It would have been counterproductive. But what I learned that day is that sometimes the most liberating exercise of freedom is voluntarily laying it down.
Question: Do you remember a time when you gave up your freedom for the sake of someone else?
[photo: Ashley Santiago]