Have you ever been in a situation where you questioned whether or not you should participate in a certain behavior? As Christians, our behavior is to be guided by the Bible. It is easy to evaluate a behavior specifically addressed in the Word. Other behaviors may seem wrong to us, but we see other Christians doing them. How do we know what we should and should not do?
Here some examples to think about:
› Drinking or using other legal substances
› Gambling (playing the lottery)
› Working on Sunday
› Going to see an R-rated movie
Many of these seem explicitly wrong, and may in fact be so. But let’s add circumstances to increase the dilemma:
› Is speeding wrong if you are late for work? What if you are trying to get to the hospital because a relative was in a wreck?
› Is using tobacco wrong? Or using medical marijuana?
› Is playing the lottery wrong if you only spend $20 a month and consider it recreation?
› Is working on Sunday wrong if you are a nurse or doctor?
› Is going to see a war movie that is rated R wrong if it is truthfully depicting the violence of the battle field?
Circumstances may change the way we evaluate a behavior.
While studying 1 Corinthians, I discovered some principles that will help guide our behavior as Christians. I have organized them into two tests of behaviors. These tests are not to be used to judge other’s lives. They are for us to use to guide our own behavior.
In Corinthians chapter 8, Paul answers a question about whether or not Christians should eat meat that has been offered to idols. While we do not encounter this particular dilemma, we can learn principles from his answer that will help us evaluate our behaviors. In applying these principles, we seek to answer the question, “Should I or should I not _________?”
From Paul’s teaching we can determine two test for deciding if we should do certain things: Knowledge and Love. (This blog explains the Knowledge test. Look for Should I? Part 2 for the Love test.)
“Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV)
The first test is that of knowledge. Paul tells the Corinthians that they “all have knowledge” concerning things offered to idols. They knew that idols were not real and that sacrificing meat to them did not change the meat.
We must also have knowledge – knowledge of what God says about the action. We gain this knowledge through Bible study. If we are lacking in knowledge, we should pray for wisdom and ask God to show us what to do. We should use our Bible’s index or a concordance to find Scriptures about the behavior. We can also google what the Bible say about it.
When we have gained Biblical knowledge, we should then ask 3 questions:
Is it sin? Does the Bible specifically forbid the action? If so, it is a sin, and we should not do it. If we are not sure what the Bible says about the action, we can ask a pastor or Christian friend. Be sure to ask them to share the Bible passage on which their belief is based. We need to always ask the question: What does the Bible say? The Bible is the only source of absolute truth.
The next 2 questions come from 1 Corinthians 6:12. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
The Corinthian believers were claiming spiritual liberty and saying, “All things are lawful for me.” Paul explains that even if all things were lawful, not all things are helpful, and we should not be controlled by any. This leads us to the following questions:
Is it harmful in any way? Even if a behavior is not a sin, it may not be helpful for us. In fact, many actions that are not sin can be harmful to us. We should not participate in any behavior that might harm our health, cause us relationship problems, or hinder our walk with God.
Could it control me? As Christians, we are to be controlled by God.
Even good behaviors become bad when they control us. Because we are by nature creatures of habit, anything we do can become addictive. Any addiction in our life becomes a controlling force. When we are controlled by a behavior, are we truly controlled by God? Any behavior that affects our obedience to God is controlling and should be stopped.
If we can confidently answer no to these 3 questions, we need to proceed to the Love test. (See my blog entitled – Should I? Part 2.)