Posted by: Bro. Lawrence D. | August 6, 2008

Agonizing Over Matters of Conscience

This is going to be a relatively short post.

I’ve heard many sermons and bible studies on Romans 14, which is normally called the “Christian Liberty” or “Matters of Conscience” passage. Since the text only covers food and drink specifically, I’ve noticed that most of the time the application of the text stalls in other areas where there is no “thou shalt not” in the scriptures to guide us. What do I mean? Well, ask any conservative Christian about one of these types of “matters of conscience” issues, like smoking or drinking, and you’ll get a wide range of opinions. The problem for me is that most of the time it leads to hypocrisy on the part of the one saying “You can’t” do either. How? Well, if the objection is body pollution, then the one saying “you can’t” must be a total health nut in all areas, like eating. If the objection is addiction, then there goes any area of addiction for the thou-shalt-not’er, like t.v. or coffee. The solid objection seems to be in the area of “personal witness” to non-believers. But even then one would seem to be able to rebutt that with the fact that the gospel is what is offensive/rejected and not a beer or a cigarette. And I would think that a Christian would do either privately or at least, not a the time that they intend to witness.

But the question really is, what are areas that we should consign to the “matters of conscience” bin? Smoking? Drinking? Dancing? Voting? Home-schooling? Military service? etc.?

Here’s one to kick around your head:

There are two brothers in your church. One has terrible, inoperable back pain. One has glaucoma, which gives him terrible headaches. The one with the back pain is on prescribed codeine or vicadin pills and he takes them. The one with the glaucoma is on prescribed medical marijuana (where it is legal) and he must smoke it. We would accept the brother with the back pain. But what would our reaction be to the brother with the glaucoma? Would we suggest he just pray about it? Would we question his standing as a believer if he smoked the marijuana?

Help me agonize on this one please.

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Responses

  1. Whats good brother? Glad you back posting. Tell Seeker to come get him some! LOL!!!! But for real here is my position.

    1. If the bible says don’t do it, then you can’t, if your conscience says don’t do it then you can’t. If the bible nor your conscience convicts you, then well pass the Newports and the Heinike homeboy.

    2. Next if both are legally prescribed then I say go for it. I have heard from a family of Churches predominately on the West Coast that they would object my view but hey!

    But I want to take you another spin. Check this scenario.

    You have a brother in your church that doesn’t watch certain movies or listen to certain music. However you enjoy these things that he considers sin. What should you do if you want to have a relationship? In other words where should we draw the line with the weaker brother? How far can we let him being offeneded take us? Paul says “he will never eat meat” over in Corinthians. But how far should we take this with a brother who continues to remain the weaker brother? Ah, I think that is the question there brother. If we are to die to our liberties how far should we let someone take us?

  2. Bro. Lionel,

    You know you only pitch curves and I still can’t hit one out the park! LOL!!!

    I say for the sake of relationship, you go as far as necessary. You find a common enjoyment in something together and you do that. And those things that you’re ok with, you learn to do with out so long as they offend your brother.

    I’ve found out something interesting Bro. Lionel. When people discover that you truly love them, those things that you do and even believe start to offend them less. For instance:

    Now some would be mad at me, even call me a compromiser, but I once had a Oneness co-worker that I love very much. We still talk from time-to-time. When I first met him he needed a ride home. Even though I didn’t know him, or where he lived, I offered him one. He was so thankful. By the time we got to his house we were having a real Christian discussion. We sat in front of his house for two hours just talking. We even prayed before I left. And we did not yet know one another’s denominational affiliation. (I was still COGIC at the time)

    Within the next few days I learned he was a Oneness Pentecostal. After I learned that I’m sure he thought of me as a condescending, arrogant, pompous know-it-all. Why? Because as soon as I found out he was Oneness, I hit him with the entire Trinitarian apologetic that I knew at the time. In my mind, I was going to change his. This approach, of course, accomplished nothing. By this time I’m sure he was starting to wonder if he was dealing with a Christian after all. I mean, anytime we talked I brought it up and since I continued to give him a ride home everyday, that was pretty often. He was starting to desire less and less to have me around.

    Then one night he hurt his back. As I walked by I noticed he was in a lot of pain. Immediately, in plain sight on this warehouse floor, I laid my hands on his back and began to pray. He stood upright and said the pain had subsided. Then a few days later he needed a ride to work. I left work on my break to go get him even though members of his church worked there too and they wouldn’t. From then on he was, by his own admission, convinced that I was really a Christian and that I really loved him. After that I stopped trying to be a Trinitarian apologist, because it caused offense, and decided to be a Christian brother to him. I tried to focus simply on salvation by grace alone apart from works. (In my opinion, this is the real problem of the Oneness Pentecostal’s. They add works to the gospel.) As he saw Christ’ love through my deeds, it proved to be much more lasting in his mind than any of my words. To this day he is yet Oneness, but now he is convinced that Christ has believers in other denominations. A major step for him at the time.

    I may never be able to talk to him about the Trinity again. Simply because I put it ahead of being a loving example to him as a believer. But because I did finally put that aside and just love the brother, someone else may be able to discuss it with him, without it bringing up familiar memories of my harshness with him. Just imagine if I would have decided to love him rather than try to personally convert him. God forgive me!

    So again, when it comes to the soul of another, no liberty is too precious that it can’t be relinquished to provided opportunity for Christ to work His work through us, for another’s good.

  3. Heretic Lover!!!!!!!! LOL, Brother this is beautiful indeed. So you are saying the mature believer should go all the way to the cross not to offend their brother? Wow that is radical isn’t it. You taking this Christian thing too serious bro.

  4. What up professor, man you know we have to live this life with no liberty “not to sin” I think that Romans 14:5 says it all for me. Let every man be fully persuaded in his OWN mind. But not to put a stumble block in front of his brother. But don’t take away my liberty, I’m not saying liberty unto “sin” because every one will give account of himself to God. To add to this is 2 Cor 3:17 for the people rushing to say I want to sin. Nobody can stop somebody from sining anyway if they really want to do it. No spirit of the Lord no liberty, again not to sin for those people out there that have no liberty in Christ.

  5. Brother the trouble with the conscience is that it too is under the influence of sin.
    Genesis 20 tells about an encounter between Abraham and Abimelech. Abraham passed his wife Sarah of as his sister, and Abimelech took her for a wife. God warms Abimelech in a dream that he is as good as dead. Abimelech responded he took Sarah with a clear conscience and clean hands because Abraham said she was his sister. In Gen. 20.6 God affirm for Abimelech that he acted with a “clear conscience,” but did not affirmed his hands were clean.
    Abimelech hands were not clean as he already had a wife in Gen. 20. 17. He violated God ordinance on marriage.
    The socially acceptable cultural practice in Abimelech days that allowed him to act with freedom of conscience was still a sin in god’s sight.
    Following the dictates of conscience is only wise if it is truly align with God’s revealed truths.

  6. Bro/Sis. Robinson,

    I’m not exactly clear as to what your point is. Did you understand my post and that under the New Covenant that that which is not expressly forbidden by God in scripture is a matter for one’s own conscience? Otherwise, we are left with someone who believes themselves to be in a postition of “authority” deciding for us what is right and wrong. This itself is sin!

    If I have misunderstood you, please clarify.


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