Ok ok a few disclaimers.
1. If you’re not a follower of Jesus this post is not aimed towards you at all.
2. This post is not aimed at anyone in particular.
So recently (yesterday actually) I posted a status about bikinis. Apparently that’s controversial and people, Christians, immediately started to discuss and debate about wether they were appropriate or not to wear. The classic modesty argument presented on one side, and then the rebuttal of define modesty and it’s not mentioned in the Bible on the other side. Both sides can be argued, and no doubt both sides are still being argued. However I think there is a deeper aspect to all this that we as a Church body miss. It’s not just about if bikinis are ok to wear, no, this goes back to a much deeper issue of the heart and begs us to ask the question where are our hearts when it comes to grey areas like this?
One of the most important passages in the Bible regarding tough issues such as this I think is found in Roman 14. Here we find the real issue behind such grey areas as the one mentioned above. Paul is brilliant in this chapter. There is an issue going on, a huge controversy. People, Christians, are eating meat that is considered unclean and other Christians are up in arms about it. The question comes down to who is right? Well look at Pauls response to this grey area.
“ Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”
Can you say Grand Slam? Paul completely goes right to the heart of the issue. He essentially says “Sure you have that freedom to, but if it’s causing your brother or sister to stumble then is it worth it?” He goes even further and says ” if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat then you are no longer acting in love”. Wow, this is so on the money. I think we forget this passage too often, and I’m not just referring to the single issue of wearing a bikini, this can be applied to many things. Are we checking with the family around us to make sure that we are looking our for their best interest? I think that’s an essential question to ask.
You see it always comes back to our hearts. It always comes back to the Holy Spirit. Are we running our choices by the Holy Spirit? Are we checking with Jesus first? Making sure that we are living in tune with the way he wants us to live? It’s not necessarily always about specific examples such as bikinis or alcohol or other controversial issues in the church today. It’s about where are our hearts in all of this. I think it’s a very weak argument to just say “well I have freedom in Christ so I can drink now, or I can wear this, or I can do this or that “. Have you checked with Jesus? And if he gave you the ok, have you made sure people around you aren’t going to be stumbling as you partake in something that could be hard for some people to understand? This is key, so key. Why? Because it shows us where our hearts are. Are we really that self centered and selfish that we are willing to compromise a brother or a sister so we can flaunt our freedom in their face? For me this has been a question that I have had to ask myself and then re-evaluate some of the things I do. I want to give one example.
I personally have no problem with smoking the occasional tobacco pipe or cigar. I don’t make it a habit because I know it’s not healthy for me, and I don’t want to become dependent on those things. But I enjoy a good smoke with friends around a fire in to the wee hours of the morning. Now, even though I have the freedom to smoke tobacco, there are two things I have to keep in mind. First I always think of the verse where Paul says “”Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.” There is absolutely not one constructive, or beneficial thing about smoking tobacco. It’s unhealthy, and there is really nothing good about it besides the enjoyment I get out of it. This I think is something that can be applied to a number of things. Sure we have the freedom to do it, but tell me what is the benefit of it? In this particular case of tobacco, there really is no benefit, therefore I limit how often I partake in that.
Secondly, I make it a point not to smoke tobacco around certain people because I know it offends them, and truth be told, to me it’s not worth it. To me, there are more important things in life then having a smoke here or there. If it offends my brothers or sisters then I will most definitely not be doing it in front of them even though I have the freedom to do so. I am once again reminded of Paul where he says “19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.”
Once again, Paul just hits it out of the park. He continually brings it back to what is really important. Paul essentially once again says “Hey, there are more important things going on then you eating food and doing things that really have no eternal value”.
Let’s bring this home to us. As the body of Christ, as people who are followers of Jesus, who are claiming to be his disciples, we need to get our priority’s straight. Are we so focused on this world and the things it feeds us that we forget about people? This is something that does not have an easy answer. It involves each of us talking to Jesus and then being obedient to how he is calling us to live. Let us not forget that this world is not our home, that this culture is not the ultimate reality. That we live in a world that is broken and Jesus shows us how to live in wholeness with our creator. It is essential that we transform our minds from the earthly mindset we are fed, to the kingdom of God and the way of living that ushers us in to.