Guidelines on making wise decisions on tricky issues

Tuesday, July 30, 2013, Part 3

Find out more about our guest, a pastor from the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area,  Jeff Manion.

“I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:14-15).

IDEA: Christianity is not about laws, but about motives.

PURPOSE: How can some activity be sin for one person and perfectly all right for another?

Have you ever been offered food to eat that you felt was “unclean”?

We may think of food that is unsanitary.

Or we may think of foods we think shouldn’t be eaten—like snakes or snails or puppy-dog tails.

What about food that has been offered to an idol?

What about wine?

Paul gives us a handle on this that we may not want to grab. He says in Romans 14:14, “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

Paul is not talking about moral acts in this passage. He is talking about things (in this case, foods) that are really neutral, neither good nor bad.

An act may be profitable or sinful, depending on how you look at it. This is a basic principle that sows division between Christians.

To an art student a certain painting may be a work of art, but to someone else It is an obscene drawing.

To one Christian, Christmas and Easter may be days of worship, but to another they are pagan holidays.

To one person, going to a movie or seeing a Broadway play may seem like diversion, but to another it may seem sinful.

Paul tells us that Jesus endorsed that principle: “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus.” This is strikingly emphatic in the verse. He may have been referring to the teaching of Jesus as we find it in Mark 7:15-23.

“Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

When Jesus had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

In that passage Jesus taught that defilement springs from an impure heart, not from the violation of external rules. Fellowship with God is broken, not by taboos, but by sin.

Yet, when I believe that some objectively neutral behavior is SIN, then it becomes sin to me.

The sin is not in the act, but in the motive. The motive in my heart leads me to disobey what I believe God has commanded.

Implications of this:

I must not go against my conscience when I engage in what to me is a questionable practice.

I ought not try to persuade someone to do something against his or her conscience, even though it is not an issue with me.

The more I understand the Scripture, the more I understand that a relationship with God isn’t a set of rules about life, but it is a life of love.