Christian living is about walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26), and walking in the light (1 John 1:7). These passages show that we are called to a higher standard, and we have to ask more mature questions than just, “Is it wrong? or, “Is it lawful?” or, “Is it against the rules?” Paul shows this when he was interacting with the same kind of responses from the Corinthians. Since the law of Moses was done away with and they were now under the grace of Christ, they would say things like, “All things are lawful.” Paul responds by showing that even if things are permitted (or not explicitly condemned), this does not mean one should do them. Paul responded by saying, “But not all things are helpful” and, “Not all things build up” (1 Cor. 10:23). Paul shows them (and us) that there are other questions that need asked before engaging in a certain behavior. These questions would include (but are not limited to):
- Is it wise? – What does the book of proverbs say about this behavior? What do mature and wise believers you know think about it?
- Is it helpful and edifying to others? – (see 1 Cor. 10:23-30; Rom. 14-15) May this action lead someone to stumble in their faith? Does it help someone grow or mature?
- Is it loving? – (see 1 Cor. 13) Does this behavior show that I am devoted to showing love, especially towards those who are weaker in the faith or more restrictive than I am? Does it show that I am concerned for their soul?
- Is it God-glorifying? – (see 1 Cor. 10:31-33; Gal. 5:16-26) Does this action display the fruit of the Spirit that glorifies God or does it display a work of the flesh? Is it similar to the works of the flesh?
- Does it reflect purity and holiness? – (see 1 Thess. 4:1-8; Eph. 5:7-21) God desires His people grow in holiness. Does this action show I am working to mature and to be more like Jesus?
- Does God show that this behavior pleases Him? (see 2 Cor. 5:9-10) The only way we know a certain behavior is pleasing to God is if He tells us in His word. If we have made it our aim to please Him, will we do that which is “questionable” or presumptuous? Would we do things that may not be pleasing just because we want to do them?
We have to get better at asking questions like these. We must understand that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should do it. There are many things we can do, but fewer things we should do. We have to start asking, “What is the likely outcome of this course of action?” and then only proceed if people will be helped, God will be glorified, and purity and holiness will be reflected.
But even when these questions are asked, this does not mean we will all come to the same conclusion about all of these behaviors. In this case, I believe there are at least three principles we must keep in mind:
- We must not condemn people based on our own reasoning when there is not a scripture condemning a practice (Romans 14:1-12).
- It is not “judging” to encourage people to act with wisdom and love and in a God-glorifying way as scripture teaches.
- Be willing to always discuss these kind of issues with reasonableness and gentleness. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion, but as you do so, be ready to show that something IS pleasing to God, helpful to others, loving, and God-glorifying. Don’t just air your opinion and give no justification from scripture for it.
Many subjects are a matter of wisdom and discernment. We need to in these areas work to distinguish between good and evil, using God’s word to do so (Hebrews 5:13). We need to have our minds renewed so that we can “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We see in Romans 12:2 a different kind of thinking. Instead of thinking, “is this wrong,” we need to ask, “is this behavior good, acceptable, and perfect?” Let’s help each other to be wise. Let’s help each other ask better questions. And let’s learn to love each other even when we arrive at different conclusions.