Is it okay for a Christian to drink alcohol? What about tobacco? R-rated movies? The list goes on and on regarding what Christians can - or should - do in their personal lives. In fact, the arguments can get so intense that friendships get wounded and fellowship gets fractured before any useful resolution is reached. Often the debate rages over outward appearances rather than the true condition of the heart.
So instead of trying to argue a point, I'm going to agree with the apostle Paul in Romans 14:1 when he writes, "Don't argue about doubtful issues." After this statement, Paul spends the rest of the chapter outlining for believers how we are to handle ourselves when it comes to the issue of these doubtful - sometimes called grey - areas (1 Corinthians 8 and 10 also covers this topic).
Basically, when it comes to areas where there is not a consensus as to whether it is right or wrong to participate, Paul gives us some guidelines to ask ourselves (not to preach to others) that will help give us the answers that we are seeking.
1) Am I convinced in my own mind that it's okay for me? (14:5, 14, 23). In other words, if I have any doubts, then I shouldn't do it.
2) Can I participate in this activity and do it as unto the Lord? (14:6-8) The example I've always gone by is this: Could I see myself sharing my faith in Christ while I was engaging in this activity?
3) If I were to do this, would it cause my brother to stumble? (14:13, 20-21). Let me throw out a caveat on this one - if your brother or sister in Christ struggles in a certain area, then it doesn't matter where you personally stand in this area if it's going to cause them spiritual struggle for you to indulge in it. We must follow the example of Christ in putting others first.
4) When I engage in this activity, does it promote peace? (14:19) If it causes fights and struggles, then we don't need to engage in it.
5) Do I build my brother or sister up when I do this? (14:19) Again, it's not so much whether or not it's okay for you to social drink or see a movie. Instead, if it's something that hurts the faith of your brother then it's something that you should not be doing.
6) Let me add one more that I will borrow from 1 Corinthians 10:31: Can I do this and also bring glory to God? If you can't glorify God when engaging in this area, then it's not something that you need to be doing.
We have liberty - freedom - as believers from legalism that makes our lives more about work than about faith. But that freedom doesn't give us the right to indulge openly in areas that would cause division or spiritual struggle among our fellow believers. There is no love in that. Ultimately, we must listen and be sensitive to the heart of God and truly obey what His Spirit is leading us to do and not to do.
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