Black, White and Gray
Many decisions we make as Christians involve areas or activities that are not explicitly addressed in the Bible. They are often referred to as the “gray” areas. How do we discern right from wrong when the Bible doesn’t take a stand or never even addresses the issue?
Let’s not muddy the waters here. In many cases there should be no question to begin with. Lots of things are black or white. It’s always right to honor our parents and speak the truth. And we don’t need special insight to figure out if drunkenness, explosive anger or adultery are permissible. No confusion here. Let’s not justify the unjustifiable.
But the Bible doesn’t give a pet answer to many other Christian life questions we’re confronted with. Is it okay for Christians to have tattoos, piercings and drink alcohol? What about movies, music and video games? What is permissible in the married Christian bed? How far can we go in following fashion trends?
Some will say, “Because the Bible doesn’t address these questions and because you are free in Christ, you can do what you whatever you want!” Praise God for freedom in Christ (Gal. 5:1).The Gospel allows for different convictions regarding “gray” areas (Rom. 14:1-4). But with freedom comes responsibility.
Instead of giving us rules to obey, God has provided us with biblical principles that supersede time and culture. They ought to govern our choices. If we prayerfully run our questions through the filter of these principles, we will receive the wisdom we need to make sound choices. Thoughtlessly hiding behind Christian liberty will not do.
Does it help or hinder me spiritually? Speaking about our topic, Paul said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor. 10:23; 1 Cor. 6:12). If it hinders us spiritually, we should stay away from it. Just because we have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is best to do it. Instead of asking ourselves what could be possibly wrong, we should ask ourselves what good it does. Can it make us love, praise and thank Jesus more?
Does it violate my conscience? If something troubles our conscience and we do it anyway, we sin (Rom. 14:23). If we're not sure about it, we shouldn’t do it. It is true that our conscience is fallible. It must be informed and shaped by the Word of God. But a troubled conscience is like a red light on your car’s dashboard. Time to reconsider.
Does it bring bondage? It is a sad paradox that under the banner of freedom we can easily succumb to new slaveries. “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). Some activities have such an incredible pull. Not everything that tastes sweet is good. Good things turn bad when they enslave us. If our soul cries, “I must have this. I can’t picture myself without”, we are in dangerous territory. Our bodies belong to the Lord. One day we will give an account of how we have handled His possession (2 Cor. 5:10).
Does it cause a problem for someone else? This can be a tough one. We can always find someone taking issue with our choices. We must live for God, not for the approval of others (Gal. 1:10). And yet the Bible teaches that we should be willing to limit our freedom for the sake of our brother or sister in the Lord (1 Cor. 8:9-11; Rom. 14:13-21). Perhaps we can handle the freedom, but if my exercise of freedom causes someone else to stumble, it becomes a sin (!) against Christ (1 Cor. 8:12).
Does it glorify God? Everything we do, should be a legitimate platform to make God look good (1 Cor. 10:31). Do our choices display His love and holiness, or does it somehow cloud and obscure Him? We not only witness with our words. Our lives often speak louder.
God cares deeply about the way we live.