In my blog Should I? Part 1, I discussed how Christians can decide if they should participate in certain behaviors. I mentioned some behaviors that could be quite controversial, some of which many Christians would label wrong. Here are some more behaviors. These may be more questionable. Many of us may struggle to make these decisions.
› Eat at a bar if I am only going for the food?
› Go dancing? Go dancing at a bar?
› Read steamy romance novels?
› Hang out with someone who speaks profanely?
› Have dinner with someone of the opposite sex other than my spouse?
In Part 1, I laid out the Knowledge Test:
1. Is it sin?
2. Is it harmful in any way?
3. Could it control me?
You can see how many of these examples could easily pass the test of knowledge. Does that mean the behavior is right for us? To answer this question, we need to proceed to the Love Test. (Remember: We are judging our own behaviors, not other‘s.)
It is not enough to know something is not sin, not harmful, and not controlling. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up.” Knowledge, by itself (even Biblical knowledge), can lead to pride if it is not used in the right way. For this reason, Paul gave us another principle to consider. Paul continues in verse 1, “Love builds up.” In love, we must consider how a behavior will affect those around us. We can do this by applying the Love Test:
Could this behavior cause someone to stumble? Everyone has not gained the same amount of knowledge. Some newer believers in Corinth had not come to the full knowledge that idols were nothing and eating sacrificed meat would not affect them. If they ate idol meat, they might feel guilty and have their conscience defiled. Similarly, less mature Christians may be negatively affected by actions we take in Christian liberty.
Because of this, Paul gives what is often referred to as the Principle of the Weaker Brother. “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)
Paul explains that we are to consider our weaker brother and to remember that Christ died for them. When we fail to do so, our knowledge destroys them. In fact, according to 1 Corinthians 8:12, when we fail to consider how our actions will affect the newer Christian, we are sinning against them and against Christ. One way to avoid this is by asking the next question:
Could someone think this behavior is evil? We need to realize others are watching us. Lost people are watching us to see if we act according to our beliefs. Our behavior may be the only glance they get of Christianity. New believers are watching us to see how they should act. Many do not know the Bible well, so they need us to be their example.
Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from every appearance of evil.” (KJV) Notice, something doesn’t have to be evil to be avoided, it may simply appear evil. If a new believer or a lost person could look at a behavior and think we were committing evil, we should not do it.
“Abstain” – don’t do it
“every” – not some, not just the worst evil, but every
“appearance of” – anything that could be mistaken as
We need to accept the fact that others are observing our behavior. We need to properly represent the God we serve in all we do. God is holy, and He expects us to be holy.
If we can confidently answer no to the two questions in the Love Test, we can confidently participate in the behavior. If we are not sure, the action is questionable and we should not do it.
Paul sums up this test of love, by saying, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor 8:13 NKJV). Are we willing to do the same? Will we say, “If something causes my brother to sin, I will not do it!” If so, we will pass the Love Test.
The Knowledge Test protects us from harming ourselves.
The Love Test protects us form harming others.
Just because a behavior is something I can do as a Christian, doesn’t mean it is something I should do?