What to Do in the Gray Areas
- Sunday, March 30, 2003
One of my joys as a pastor is to guide people through God's Word and explain its implications on their lives. It thrills me to help others by clarifying a point of doctrine, interpreting a difficult verse, or answering any number of other questions. Among the concerns people raise, I can't remember the last time someone asked me if it was wrong to lie, to cheat, to steal, to commit murder, to commit adultery, or to covet. It's also been a long time since anyone wanted to know whether a Christian should read the Bible, pray, or tell others about salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible is pretty clear about those things.
There is, however, one class of question that falls somewhere in the middle. These are the issues dealing with Christian freedom-things that fall in the "gray" area. What entertainment is acceptable? What kind of music is okay? What can a Christian do or not do on Sunday? What about what you wear, what you eat and drink, or how you spend your free time-does the Bible address those things?
Some would say, "No, the Bible doesn't address them. Do what you want to do-you're free in Christ!" While it is true that the Bible doesn't specifically list every possible decision you'll face in life, it does address all choices with principles that govern Christian freedom. When you run your choices in the "gray areas" through the following grid of principles from God's Word, I trust you'll find both clarity and true freedom to live your life to God's glory.
Will it benefit me spiritually?
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. (1 Cor. 10:23)
A "profitable" thing is useful, helpful, or to your advantage to do; and the idea behind "edify" is to build up spiritually. So based on this verse, ask yourself, "Will doing this enhance my spiritual life? Will it cultivate godliness? Will it build me up spiritually?" If not, you should seriously question whether that behavior is the best choice.
Will it bring bondage?
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Cor. 6:12) In the second part of this verse, Paul is saying, "I will not be brought under the power of anything." If what you are considering can be habit forming, why pursue it? Don't allow yourself to be in bondage to anything or anyone. You are a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Don't do anything that you know will harm your body or bring shame-it is the only instrument you have to glorify God. Romans 6:13 says, "Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." How you choose to use your body should always reflect your concern to honor Jesus Christ.
Will it cause anyone to stumble?
Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor. 8:8-9)
This is the principle of love. As Romans 13:10 says: "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law." If you know that your choice-what you consider "in bounds" and approved-causes another Christian to stumble and sin, love that brother or sister enough to restrict your own freedom. That is not very popular in our self-absorbed society, but it is biblical. To continue to indulge in a legitimate freedom that causes problems for another Christian is a sin. For "by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore," Paul said, "if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Cor. 8:12-13)
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