How to decide what is right or wrong for you

Many of the issues we face in today’s world are not addressed specifically in Scripture. So how do you decide what’s right or wrong for you? Here are some general principles from the Bible to help you decide:

First, the apostle Paul notes:

    You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you (1 Corinthians 6:12).

Apparently, “I am allowed to do anything” was the philosophy for the Corinthians—and, of course, the entire Roman Empire. Surprisingly, Paul agrees:

    Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted (Titus 1:15).

“Things” are morally neutral. We can use a knife to chop veggies or attack a person. The knife is amoral. Morality lies in how we use something.

Paul writes that we are allowed to do anything, but he adds a big but—not everything is good for you. Notice that he addresses “you.” Something that is perfectly good for you, may not be good for me. The apostle explains:

    Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

    In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves (Romans 14:1-7).

Paul provides a helpful check list for deciding if something is right or wrong for and me individually. It’s implied that “things” the Bible specifically states are sin should be shunned. For instance, Paul writes, “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life (Ephesians 5:18). However, Jesus and Paul both approved the moderate use of wine. So, ask yourself . . .

Does it promote life?

    And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him (Romans 12:1).

    Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

    Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit (3 John 2).

There are some things that have harmful or fatal consequences. (You know what they are, so I’m not going to pile on guilt if you’re struggling with those things.)

Does it promote liberty?

      You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).

      Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

      “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:31-32; 35-36).

      So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law (Galatians 5:1).

Anything that is habit-forming and enslaves us is not of God! Followers of Christ should be the freest people on earth.

Does it thing promote love?

    Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. (Romans 13:8-10).

    Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God (Romans 14:20-22).

Love is our ultimate guide for what is right and wrong. For instance, if you’re out to dinner with a recovering alcoholic, it’s not loving to order yourself a beer. Inviting a vegan to join you at Outback Steak House is not loving. And if you’re a Seventh Day Adventist, don’t condemn your Baptist friend for worshipping on the “wrong” day.

So, to paraphrase United States’ Declaration of Independence, seek life, liberty and the pursuit of love.

Adapted from Should a Christian Wear Purple Sweat Socks? How to Decide What’s Right or Wrong for You Copyright © 1987.

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