Have you ever argued with another Christian over opposing views? Or ever tried stopping another Christian from doing something you don’t necessarily agree with?
I’m not talking about those questions that the Bible obviously calls sin like “Is it wrong to steal money even if you don’t get caught?”. I’m talking about those tricky questions like, “How far is too far to go when dating?”
These issues are of the messy kind and they bring with it a lot of different, opposing views. And because of the wide range of answers we may get from people, there’s a tendency to get into an argument or two over these.
Black and White
I recently got into a disagreement with a friend over a difference in opinion. I remember feeling frustrated at how such a petty thing came between us, but after praying and reading the Word for a few days, I remembered this set of verses in Romans 14:
“…do not quarrel over opinions… Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand… Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (1, 4-5)
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.” (7-8)
I admit that I’m a very black and white person. When I like something, I go all in. Otherwise, I’m remain uncommitted. But these verses reminded me about three things about convictions.
1. Convictions are a product of our personal relationship with God.
For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.
When we enter into a relationship with God, He will start to move in our lives, and change us to be more like Him with each day that passes. This means that He will convict us, through the Holy Spirit and His Word, of the things that we must change about ourselves in order to grow closer to Him.
Convictions are just one of the ways that God speaks specifically to us in our personal situations.
2. Convictions vary from person to person.
Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Since convictions are born out of our personal relationship with God, not everyone will necessarily have the same convictions. There’s nothing bad about this because God has wired us each differently, and has written each of us a different story (and history).
For example, I have a personal rule where I don’t open Facebook on my laptop during office hours because it doesn’t increase my work productivity or respect my company’s time. But I know a lot of people who still go on Facebook during work hours, because they do not feel the same way about it. As the verse said, the example of Facebook is just one of my convictions from my relationship with God.
3. Our own convictions are not the standard by which we judge others.
…do not quarrel over opinions… Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.
Romans 14: 1,4
Notice the word “opinion” in the verse above. The New Living Translation paraphrases the verse this way: “don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong”. When we impose our own set of convictions on others, they become opinions of what we think is right and wrong. I’m not saying that you do not correct others when they are clearly doing something against God’s Word. But the verse carries with it two truths:
One, having different convictions does not give us license to sin out of ignorance, but rather emphasizes our personal accountability to God. Even if you don’t agree with the person, you have to remember that every Christian operates with the same Holy Spirit, and if his/her relationship with God is healthy, then there might be something specific that God is teaching that person. (Sometimes the better question for yourself is, what is God teaching you as a third party observer?)
God is personal, but He has no desire for us to make what is personal to us become personal to someone else. To do so would be selfish and unkind.
Two, having different convictions does not in any way put a new standard to what sin is. Everything that the Bible calls sin remain sin, and convictions in no way obstruct God’s law from applying to us. Quite the opposite actually—convictions enable us to experience His grace and guidance in a richer and more personal way.
Living out our convictions from our personal relationship with God leads to a life pleasing to God. On the other hand, imposing our own personal convictions on others leads to a life of frustration and quarrels. So while it’s difficult to hold back our own opinion when we don’t agree with another Christian’s decision (especially if we think that he/she is walking into his/her own downfall), we have to trust that at the end of the day, you’re not the Savior or the Judge. God is.