It has become en vogue to talk about what is and is not a fellowship issue or if a matter is a heaven or hell matter. A serious study of scripture would reveal that historically Christians tend to be reactionary toward those things that they simply do not like. It seems often we end up striving to make theological arguments (Bible arguments) based more upon our likes or dislikes than serious investigation. The root of this is not bad. It reveals our respect for (high view of) Scripture. For we correctly believe if we can show Bible evidence in support of or opposition to a matter that will settle it. This has led to such illogical leaps as “one cup” or, “no eating in church buildings,” (based oddly upon a misapplication of 1 Corinthians 11:22, in a book where Paul mentions “Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house” 1 Corinthians 16:19. To follow the argument to it’s logical conclusion Aquila and Prisca could not eat in their own house). This also led to the version arguments of the ’70’s and 80’s. So much so that on a mission trip I took some Russian Bibles to Russia and one potential donor would only give money if it was translated from the KJV. It was translated from the Greek.
Of course if you cannot get your way with a buttressed biblical argument there is always the “it may not be wrong but it is not expedient” path. The challenge often is to allow what you may not believe to be expedient to be practiced by others who do believe it to be so. Because expediency is a matter of opinion, else Paul would have either circumcised both Timothy and Titus or neither Timothy nor Titus. What is expedient in one location may not be in another and what is not expedient in one congregation may not be in another.
Any matter that is not a matter of black or white, settled law, is a matter of expediency. Of course the problem is determining what is or is not a matter of black or white. My experience says that if we hold the view strongly we will fight to make it a mater of black or white, even wresting (though we’d never admit it) the scriptures to do so. But this article is not about that.
It does seem a polarizing mentality has developed. To one extreme an over zealous caution that paralyzes and terrorizes the Christian and therefore the church. We can’t do anything for fear of doing the wrong thing. We might as well bury our talent in the sand. On the polar extreme exits just as dogmatic, an insensitive approach that our freedom/liberty must be exercised to every degree. It is that extreme that I want to devote some time to.
I would like to state clearly, I believe the practice called “social drinking” to be sin. I do not believe there is anyway a Christian can justify drinking with others just for the fun of it or to be sociable. I do not drink and do not ever intend to in any setting, public or private. But as much as I would like to, I will not argue with the text and do not believe it is a sin to take a drink in every setting. The argument that the alcohol was of a different nature in the Bible does not hold water. And, yes, I understand that the alcohol content was different but it could make one drunk, else there would be no prohibitions against drunkenness. I will not argue against the Text of God’s Word.
That said there are things that could make that which is not intrinsically wrong - wrong.
- For a Christian to break the laws of the land in doing that which might not be sinful in itself would make it wrong. For example it is not sinful to drive your car over 30 miles an hour, but if the speed limit is 20 it would be wrong to snub that law.
- A second thing that would make a matter that is not sinful, sinful would be to go against the expressed authority of your eldership. It would not be sinful to “serve communion” without a tie on, but if the elders said that men who wait on the table have to wear a tie, it would be wrong to ignore that authority.
- An action that causes a brother to lose their faith by your practicing it would be sinful. Caveats on this one would be to remember this would be a weaker/younger in their faith Christian, not someone who is just being cantankerous. But to do that which is not necessarily wrong to the destruction of that person’s faith would be both mean and sinful.
- Fourth, an action that would violate your own conscious would become sinful.
- Finally that which would harming your reputation would be wrong. Each of these five can be tricky but this one is the slipperiest. In fact this one can be used against you. Some would try to use this against you to keep you from doing anything they personally don’t like. So, examine your own heart carefully.
We are blessed with liberty as Christians but let us guard our liberty carefully and only use it for good and for God.