• Jack Selcher

The Gray Areas


Scripture doesn’t speak about many issues on which equally sincere Christians disagree. How can we disagree on “gray areas” where the Bible hasn’t clearly spoken and still retain unity in the church?


When the Bible is silent about an issue, we’re free and responsible to choose our behavior without looking down on or judging others who choose differently. The problem—it’s often easier to please God than our fellow Christians.


Paul describes the rule-burdened believer as weak in the faith. For example, the strong had freedom in Christ to partake of any food (Mark 7:19, 1 Timothy 4:3-4). The weak hadn’t yet grown to that level of spiritual maturity. They were still responding to the demands of the Jewish ceremonial law.


How must believers with different convictions in debatable areas treat one another? The strong must warmly receive the weak. They must not treat them as spiritually inferior. That avoids spiritual pride, a temptation for the strong. In the weak, spiritual pride reveals itself, for example, in condemning the one who eats everything. But God has accepted that individual. The weak believer must do the same.


In debatable matters, motivation is more important than behavior. Judging motives is God’s department. Every believer is God’s servant. It’s inappropriate to judge the work habits of someone else’s servant. We’re free to choose our behavior in gray areas. We aren’t free to impose our views, look down on, or judge believers who choose differently.


We must personally wrestle with gray issues. We shouldn’t let spiritual leaders do all our thinking for us. Each of us must be fully convinced in our own mind about them (verse 5). Then, we must keep our convictions to ourselves. We should decide what to do based on Christ’s lordship. We’re seeking His approval. We want to honor Him in what we’re doing. We live to Him, not ourselves. Our relationship to Him is the key to life now and hereafter. He must be the center of this life. He will be the center of the next.


Jesus purchased the church by His blood (Acts 20:28). His resurrection verified His claim to deity, His ability to save, and His universal dominion. He’s Lord of both the dead and the living. To Him alone believers must give account. The weak believer is prone to judge. The strong believer is inclined to look down on the weak. But God is the only true and qualified judge.


At the judgment seat of Christ, the Lord will judge all believers’ works and motives. In the present, we should judge our own lives, not others. That best prepares us to give account of ourselves to God. St. Augustine summed it up: “In the essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty, in all things, charity.”

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