How do you make decisions in your life? Meaning, how do you go about choosing what is going to push you forward in your life or what is going to keep you stuck where you are at? If you are like me, you might be unintentionally lowering the bar on your decision-making.
And if you are a believer in the Gospel, shouldn’t your tool belt of questions be different from someone who is not living out the Gospel of Jesus?
I have to admit that sometimes I use phrases or questions that, if I analyzed what I was saying and thought through its meaning, I probably would be disinclined to use it again.
Words to be analyzed
I have been thinking through a phrase that I have heard and used before myself.
It is the response, “Well I don’t think there is anything wrong with _______, so I do not see why I cannot do it.”
When was the last time that you heard this? Or when was the last time you used this? I would like to take this post and challenge your thinking on this wording for a Christian and perhaps present to you the flip side of this argument. Because whenever I have used this statement in the past, I am most likely using it because I was criticized or questioned for doing _______ and my first line of defense is “Hey, I do not see anything wrong with it.”
In my journey of being a Christian, I have served in different Christian “circles” that have their own culture or way of seeing things. Even today, my “circle” is different than just 5 years ago. Think back to a math class with a Venn diagram. Do you remember those? If the circles intersected, that meant that the overlapping circles shared something in common – some trait, some characteristic, some people-group.
Even within conservative evangelicalism, I have found that there are different “circles.” And I sense at times that though doctrine may agree, there is this “because the only thing we share is Jesus, there are too many other things that we do not agree on, so therefore we’ll just disagree and throw darts at each other.” And many times what lies outside the intersecting circles are just preferences, but things begin to get codified and it becomes a “Jesus + …” mentality.
I read an interesting book titled Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees. And it was a very eye-opening read for me and showed me how much Pharisee I really do have in myself. U-G-L-Y.
The Pharisees started out with some commendable qualities, many that I agree with. When the law of God was first given, the Torah was furthered from generation to generation through oral teaching. And the Pharisees were there as protectors of that law. They were all about right doctrine, a correct interpretation of the Bible, and righteous living that was pleasing to Jehovah God. And in that oral teaching, they wanted the people around them to understand God’s words and apply them accurately.
In other words, take the words of God and tell the people how they must live.
In fact, the historian Josephus wrote that “they are supposed to excel others in the accurate knowledge of the laws of their country.” They were a people of the book. But over time, in their interpretation of “what does this look like in daily life?” those interpretations became arranged and summarized into “this is what clean living must look like.” And so when Jesus shows up on the scene and unravels their religious system, they killed the living Torah.
And so in my decision-making quests, I do not want to end up making decisions where “what I do” becomes equivalent with pleasing God and fall into the trap of believing God is pleased or displeased with me because of my actions. Nor should I arrange my thoughts of right living into a systematic law that others must keep.
No, Jesus drank the full cup of wrath from His father. Every drop. And all that is left for me is pleasure. Living with grace.
But I have also seen the grace mentality taken to an incorrect conclusion and I begin to hear Christian liberty used out of its intended context.
And that is when I have used or heard the statement “well there is nothing wrong with it, so….”
And it is this statement that I wish to challenge with three thoughts.
A misshapen identity
I read passages from I Peter where it states…
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
This means that I am not what I was nor going on the path I was headed. Things are different now. When I see words such as chosen, royal, holy, I am lead to believe that my decisions should push me towards that which now represent who I am. So making a decision based on “there is nothing wrong with it” seems to be antithetical to the new creation I am in Christ. It does not reflect who I am.
Setting the bar too low
When using the phrase “there is nothing wrong with it” to defend whatever it is that you are I are doing, it reminds me of another phrase and that is “lowering the bar.”
To defend or desire doing something merely because I believe it is not wrong is really not a reason at all for a Christian. I have to ask myself, “Is that the only reason that I am going to do this?” If so, I am simply making a choice for the lowest tier of reasons. Jesus does not push me to that which is simply not wrong.
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12)
As a believer and one whose framework is now the Gospel, are there not better reasons to pursue something? Such as for the bending of my heart toward right living, godliness, and producing fruit in my life?
Making a defense
I save this final point as my last point for a reason. Typically when we hear or use the phrase “I am doing this because there is nothing wrong with it.” it is employed as a defense because someone has critiqued me or asked a probing question.
And yes, I am to consider all things that I do because I am told to do that in scripture.
I like the way the King James says it…
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (I Thessalonians 5:21)
That word “prove” means to examine or scrutinize, to approve, or deem worthy. God created this world for our enjoyment and His good pleasure, but sin has tainted and corrupted it. And because of this I must always be on guard.
But let me offer you this. To make a choice merely for the “there is nothing wrong with it” reason turns my relationship with Jesus into something mechanical instead of worshipful and loving.
Much of the dart-shooting I see in Christianity is over things that are preference. No matter where I am in my life, there is always someone more to the left of my thinking and doing and someone more to the right of my thinking and doing. That is always the case, even if I have shifted some in my own thinking and doing.
I was really helped in my own thought processes a few years back by a message I heard on Romans 14. Here are some of the verses…
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment 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. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. (Romans 14:1-7)
Two thoughts: 1) even among those who love Jesus and fully believe in the Gospel, there are and should be preferential differences in matters that are not doctrine. 2) I am responsible to search out the word and find out what it says. And there are some things in this life that are not as clearly defined as topics such as adultery or gossip (for example). And so there might be different applications of what a pursuit of Jesus and godly living will look like.
And it is in these instances, if having searched the scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to sweep the rooms of my heart, that I can give a response different than “there is nothing wrong with this.”
So please, let’s agree to stop using this phrase. Ok? Rather, if the scripture informs all of life, then I am able to, with confidence, give reasons for why I am going to do _______. It may push me to more authentic worship of your Father. It may open new avenues of fruit-bearing. It may give me a new perspective about the Gospel.
Or…it may just be part of the gifts of enjoyment that God has given to his children. For whatever the reason, let it be something more than it just is not wrong. We live for a much higher calling.
If you have someone who would benefit from this post today, please share it with your friends!