Yes or No? How To Navigate Gray Areas
Yesterday I was surrounded by a group of women, of all different backgrounds and ages, that had a lot of questions. Questions about dating, sex, relationships… you name the question, they just wanted answers. I could tell they were the types of questions that they were begging someone to lay out a map and direct their path with the answer.
When the answer is straight forward and firm, it’s easy to point people in a Godly direction. But what happens when questions come up that aren’t as easy? What happens when gray areas sneak into a question and Scripture isn’t firm? It’s important to know that we must stand firm where the Bible is firm but we can be flexible where the Bible is flexible.
For the most part, deciphering between right and wrong is pretty clear, contrary to what culture may tell us today. As Christians, we look to the Bible to direct our path and instruct our lives. And to be clear, being a Christian is not about following rules. Jesus is about a relationship, not about religion. But Jesus is also very clear about sin and He is firm in what to avoid to keep us from heartbreak, destruction, and loss.
If you need an example of a gray area let’s look at alcohol. This is a hot topic for the church and it’s one that actually frustrates me (I’ll get to that in a second). First, let’s dig into what Jesus says about alcohol. He makes it very clear that we should not be getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18). I think we can all agree that impaired judgement leads to destruction. However, Jesus also talks about alcohol in moderation as He Himself drank wine with His friends (1 Timothy 5:23). You could say that the question, ‘Can I have a drink?” is a gray area based on the situation and people around you and I want to tackle how to answer those gray moments.
Before we dive in, let me express a frustration as I pray it will bless someone. Since I used alcohol as my example, I want to stick with that for a second. If you see a Christian that is out with friends, or in a picture with a glass of wine or a margarita and you have concerns about that, GO TO THAT PERSON AND TALK ABOUT IT. If your heart is now full of judgement and gossip, then we have bigger issues to talk about. The only one that has the right to judge behavior is the only One who died on a cross for our sins. We are all in desperate need for grace and that includes you. Can we all agree that if we see something that may look concerning to us, that we will go to that person and hear their heart? It seems simple, right? But unfortunately we tend to get on our high horse and have this entitlement to play God. I believe we can shift this paradigm and bring a bigger piece of Heaven on earth by simply giving grace, believing in good intentions, and discussing a concern directly with an individual involved in order to avoid judgement and gossip.
Ok, off my soap box. Back to how to navigate gray areas….
When there is a question that I may not have a firm answer to, I always make sure I do a heart check. I want to make sure my heart is aligned with God’s before I jump into an answer or making a decision.
Here are some questions I ask:
- Will it have negative long-term consequences? Two things immediately come to mind here. One is unwise and unaffordable debt, which can put you in financial bondage. The other is addiction, which is why some people are OK having a single drink (for example) while other people have to abstain. (1 Corinthians 6:12)
- Could it harm my body (God’s temple)? Anything that’s likely to bring bad health or disease should be avoided. Often this comes down to moderation. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 6:13)
- Will it give me a guilty conscience? If you think something is wrong, don’t do it. (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:7)
- Will it cause someone else to sin? This is where we can lovingly sacrifice a little bit of our freedom to help our brothers and sisters. An example would be a friend who I know is a recovering alcoholic: I would choose not to drink when around him or her, so that there’s no temptation for them to join in. (1 Corinthians 8:9-13; Romans 13:10)
- Will it hurt my witness? We don’t want to hinder the spread of the gospel, and you never know who may be watching. As a believer, your life should stand out as different, but in a good way. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33; 1 Peter 3:15-17)
If I answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions then the answer is simple: DO NOT DO IT. However, if the answer is ‘no’ to any of those questions, then it’s not a bad idea. But is it good?
It is good if….
- Will it benefit either myself or others? (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
- Will it bring glory to God? Whatever you do, your goal should be to glorify God, not to glorify yourself. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
If you can answer “yes” to those questions then the gray areas become pretty clear.
I hope this blesses you.
With Grace and Love,