It seems to me, the number one reason many of us cannot seem to agree on what is right and wrong behavior for Christians is that we have a fundamentally different way of viewing right and wrong. I hope you will take a minute and examine these two viewpoints, while examining your own viewpoint. Perhaps we can move a step closer to biblical unity.
Here are the two viewpoints and how they radically differ from one another:
1. “If it isn’t WRONG, it’s alright.”
The first viewpoint is that if a behavior isn’t specifically condemned, then it must be acceptable to God. These folks reason, “If God didn’t want people to do this, He would have specifically told them not to.” There is certainly a long list of prohibitions in Scripture (yes, even in the New Testament), but this viewpoint runs on the assumption that these lists are exhaustive.
Furthermore, although many who hold this view accuse the second group of being legalistic, this viewpoint actually tends to be more legalistic in nature. After all, isn’t it legalistic to treat the New Testament like a legal document, demanding it explain in detail all the things we’re not allowed to do? This viewpoint also lends itself to searching for loopholes, saying, “Well, God only condemns this certain behavior under these circumstances, but not under these circumstances. So, I guess it’s fine for me to do it.” Those who hold this viewpoint tend to think more like a lawyer than a disciple.
2. “If it isn’t RIGHT, it’s wrong.”
The second viewpoint is that if a behavior is not good, righteous, and pleasing to God, it should be abstained from. In other words, if there is any question about whether a behavior is pleasing to God, then the Christian should stay away from such a behavior. The reasoning here is, “If God was pleased with this behavior, He would have told me to do it. But since He didn’t tell me to, it would be presumptuous to assume it’s alright.” This viewpoint doesn’t assume the Bible’s list of sins is exhaustive, but it does assume the Bible paints a complete picture of righteous living (2 Timothy 3:17).
The key here is making an effort to please God. Instead of relating to God like a lawyer, we relate to Him like a loved one. We search His word to see what kind of behavior is pleasing to Him. We concern ourselves – not with how close we can get to “the line” without stepping over but – with how close we can get to God and far we can remove ourselves from sin.
Scriptural Basis for the Second Viewpoint
Here are some passages of Scripture to consider pertaining to this issue.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2 Corinthians 5:7-10
for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
…For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24
‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
We could go on and on with passages of Scripture, but to me the whole issue comes down to this question, “Who are you trying to please?” As a husband, I do not insist my wife make a list of all the things she does not want me to do. I do not try to get as close as possible to “the line” of what bothers her and displeases her. Because I love her, I make it my goal to please her and avoid things that might bother her.
As Christians, shouldn’t we have that mindset when it comes to the Lord? Shouldn’t our goal simply be to please Him?
This principle touches so many issues in Christian life. It is the reason some Christians abstain from alcohol and others see no problem with having a few beers with their friends. It is the reason some Christian women wear dresses to the floor and others see no problem with wearing an “itsy-bitsy” bikini. It is the reason some Christians do not worship with an instrument and others see no problem with a rock band in worship.
If we’re honest though, most of us would have to admit we are somewhat inconsistent in how we view certain behaviors. Sometimes we view things through the second viewpoint and sometimes we view things through the first viewpoint. And what’s even worse, sometimes we use one standard for ourselves and another standard for others. We say, “You can’t do that because God hasn’t given you permission, but I can do this because God never said I couldn’t.” This double standard is one of traps the Pharisees fell into and it is one we must make every effort to avoid.
We must simply be people who use the standard of Scripture to determine what pleases God and live accordingly. That’s what true discipleship is all about. Furthermore, we must teach and admonish each other to do the same (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I love you and God loves you,