When it comes to behavior choices, it seems many people are only asking one question, “Is it wrong?” Questions like, is it wrong to gamble? Is it wrong to smoke? Is it wrong to have one beer? Is it wrong to dance? Or even, is it wrong to skip Wednesday night Bible study? While the question, “Is it wrong?” certainly has its place, we need to consider the fact that there are other questions which need to be asked as well.
An Elementary Question
There are obviously things Scripture says are wrong. These behaviors are no-brainers; even a child could look at Scripture and tell you these behaviors are wrong, “Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). But there are other behaviors about which we are not given such an obvious answer.
“Is it wrong?” is a good first question to ask, but it is really only an elementary question (see Hebrews 6:1-2). We must go on to ask more mature questions and teach the next generation to do the same.
The Problem with Only Asking, “Is It Wrong?”
When we only ask the question, “Is it wrong?” we give the impression that if a behavior is not condemned or forbidden in Scripture, then a Christian has complete liberty to engage in that behavior. I’m sure we have all heard a Christian retort, when challenged about a particular behavior, “Show me in the Bible where it’s wrong!”
This was apparently the mentality of some people who stirred up quite a bit of trouble in the Corinthian church. They seemed to believe, since Christians are not under Law but under grace, “All things are lawful.” Paul was quick to reply, “But not all things are helpful” and, “Not all things build up” (1 Corinthians 10:23). These people believed that if the Law of Moses had been done away with, they had complete freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. Paul rebuked them and said there were other questions that needed to be asked rather than just, “Is it lawful?”
Christian living is not about “rule-keeping.” There are more questions that need to be asked than just, “Is it against the rules?” 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). Which means 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?”
What Other Questions Should We Ask
Before engaging in a particular behavior, here are some questions we should ask ourselves:
- Is it wise? – see the book of Proverbs
- Is it helpful and edifying to others? – see 1 Corinthians 10:23-30; Romans 14-15
- Is it loving? – see 1 Corinthians 13
- Is it selfless? – see Philippians 2:1-11
- Is it God-glorifying? – see 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
- Does it reflect purity and holiness? – see 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Ephesians 5:7-21
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.
Differences of Opinion
That being said, Christians often come to different conclusions on matters of personal conduct and behavior. In which case, I believe there are at least two principles we must keep in mind:
- We must not judge people based on our own reasoning (Romans 14:1-12).
- It is not judging to encourage people to act wisely, selflessly, lovingly, and in a God-glorifying way.
So let’s start helping each other see that some things are not a matter of right or wrong, but simply a matter of wisdom and discernment. Let’s help each other to be wise. Let’s help each other ask better questions. And let’s love each other even when we arrive at different conclusions. That’s how life in the church is supposed to look.
I truly believe that when we all start asking better questions and being honest with the answers, we will find we are on the same page more often than not.
I love you and God loves you,