Sometimes people will ask me if something is sinful or not. Is it wrong to smoke? Should I go see that movie? (You know which one I'm talking about.) Sometimes they expect a long tirade about the evils of the world. Sometimes they want to justify their choices. Either way they look to me to pronounce judgment on a behavior.
Many of those behaviors, however, fall into the category of personal convictions. Personal convictions are just that - things we believe we personally should not do. But our neighbor doesn't necessarily agree nor feels guilt if he partakes in the activity.
All too often we then proceed to judge the person who feels comfortable doing something that we don't.
I have found that a different way of thinking about this is by using the words helpful or not helpful. Is something sinful? Not sure. Is it helpful? Certainly not. That solves a lot of these issues without resorting to judging or over-generalizing.
The apostle Paul taught us that the freedom to do something doesn't mean it’s wise to do it.
1 Cor 10:23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
Will going out with your girlfriends who like to bash their husbands be helpful? If your marriage is strong, it probably won't hurt. If your marriage is struggling, then do yourself a favor and run the other direction. Will the extra glass of wine with a co-worker be helpful to your relationship or your ability to drive? Will dessert be helpful for your waistline?
I think there are two extremes we would do well to avoid...
1. Walking around in constant fear of offending God as if he were our great aunt whose sensibilities were regularly violated by the stain of the world.
2. Assuming that just because everyone else is doing something, it’s okay for you. Something that is benign for your friend might be harmful for you.
This is why we always come back to relationships. These issues get worked out in relationship - with God and spiritual friends. As you walk with God, you will learn to discern what your personal convictions are. And you will learn what things might be allowed, but not helpful.
Originally published in 2015