Saturday, November 3, 2007

Beware of the Pitfalls Around Truth & Convictions

We've all seen it: arguments that break out over differences in opinion about truth and different convictions in people's lives. To spank or not to spank? Biblically, can a divorced person remarry? Should a woman cut her hair? Should men be the sole providers in a household? Is it OK to use birth control, and if so, which kinds?

Sometimes the arguments blow over, and sometimes they divide friendships, divide families, or divide the church. There are two pitfalls that we can all fall into when dealing with truth & convictions:

(1) The first pitfall is to say "all truth is relative"... "what's true for you may not be true for me", etc. "There is no way we can KNOW anything, but we all believe what we believe, and I can't speak into anyone else's life."

- Of course, the downfalls with this are many: why believe anything if you don't believe that WHAT you believe is true? Wouldn't it be easier to just live "free" from constraint, rather than to have the requirements of a particular faith, if you really don't believe it's 100% true anyhow? There are absolutes in Scripture, and we need to be absolutely convicted about those. And we can carefully and lovingly encourage and exhort others to follow the Word of God in those areas that are explicitly clear.

"Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me. "- Jim Elliot

(2) The second pitfall is to say "everything I believe, no matter how fundamental, and no matter how trivial is critically important." Using this line of reasoning, everything from the length of skirts I choose to the version of the Bible I believe is best, from the way to raise children to which companies to support or which holidays to celebrate and how becomes essential. Someone who espouses this kind of legalism soon finds themselves with less and less options for people to be friends with, because they have this mindset: "In order for me to have fellowship with someone, we must see eye to eye on everything."

- The downfall with this one is obvious: in truth, you probably don't see 100% eye-to-eye on every subject or issue with anyone on earth. And in truth, each of our lives is a process... you were not born with the convictions you now hold. Neither were you born feeling the freedom that Christ has given you. Each of us goes through a process to come to the personal beliefs and convictions that guide our lives. [I am not talking about clear biblical commands... I am speaking of personal, specific convictions... i.e., movies, hair length, what constitutes modesty, etc.] Consider this:
"According to Romans 14, people on both sides [of any matter of conviction] are neither to judge nor disparage one another. The free person is not to flaunt his or her freedom; the person for whom such matters are a deep personal conviction is not to condemn someone else." -Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

As I've mentioned before, the key is staying on the road. We have to avoid the ditches on either side of the road and try to keep a balanced perspective.

I don't want to be like the Pharisees and create extrabiblical, man-made burdens and rules that no one can live up to. Neither do I want to be an apathetic Christian, who lives without conviction and biblical standards built into my life. We need to be striving for balance, even though none of us may carry it out perfectly.

Let's prayerfully and lovingly give each other truth AND grace.


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