Biblical Principles for Assessing Gray Areas

by Cliff McManis

Navigating and assessing gray areas as a believer can be extremely difficult. As you think through the gray areas in your life, the following criteria will be helpful as a kind of litmus test of Scriptural truths to help you think through decisions where the solution is not immediately black and white. Below are several practical biblical principles to serve as guideposts for decision-making and living in harmony when it comes to dealing with gray areas:

  • Recognize people are all on different places of the sanctification spectrum, so we need to be sensitive and careful with how we evaluate another’s spirituality. Every believer is different. Believers are strong in areas and they are weak in other areas.
  • Do not judge each other. We are a family, so be patient, long-suffering, and slow to make judgments about your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Labor to distinguish between personal preferences and biblical mandates on sin issues (Rom 14:5).
  • When dealing with gray areas of life and your attitude towards other believers, examine your motives. What’s driving your concern in this particular issue? If you want to honor Christ in all things, you will want to love your fellow brother and build him up and edify him, not merely expose his sin and immaturity. Examine your motives (Rom 14:6-8).
  • Remember that every Christian will be judged by Christ. We all stumble or sin and we do it in many ways (James 3:2). None of us are perfect; only God is.
  • Never cause another Christian to violate their conscience if you can knowingly avoid it.
  • Pursue joy, righteousness, and peace, not debating over preferential matters. Focus on clearly defined right and wrong issues (Rom 14:17-19). Don’t prolong debates over gray areas. Don’t quibble about tangential issues. Don’t argue about theoretical, impractical matters.
  • Edify each other. Edify means build them up. Help other Christians grow. Be a peacemaker, not someone who causes division.
  • Prefer one another (Rom 14:20-21). Consider the good and interests of others before your own (see also Philipp 2:4). Deny yourself.
  • Don’t violate your conscience (Rom 14:5, 22).
  • Regularly evaluate yourself with respect to areas of weakness on gray area issues. Do you know where you are the weak brother and in what areas you might be the stronger believer? Know thyself! One of the highest levels of spiritual maturity is the rare ability to honestly and objectively evaluate your own spiritual status—knowing where you are weak, and owning up to those areas. This requires great humility and discernment.
  • Renew your mind with Scripture. We need to inform our minds and how we think with biblical truth or our consciences will remain weak and ill informed. When our consciences are weak it means that we’re operating on wrong biblical principles. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Spiritual growth begins with informing our minds with biblical truth. So renew your mind with Scripture; inform your conscience with biblical truth. That’s how you go from weak to strong and deepen your personal convictions before God.

Finally, as you wrestle through particular gray areas, consider these few questions.

  • Will it benefit me spiritually?
  • Will it bring me into bondage? “Mom, how much video game can I play right now? Can I play for the next four hours?”  Well, playing some video games isn’t sinful, but it can become addictive. There are a lot of things we do that aren’t inherently sinful that can become addictive. Food, shopping, spending money, video games—they become addictive. We should avoid those things that have a tendency to bring us into bondage.
  • Will it defile God’s temple? This refers to what we put in our body or how we use or misuse our body. Never do anything to go against the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is your body. Do all things in moderation.
  • Will it cause a brother to stumble? We’ve mentioned that one. Will it hinder evangelism? If it will, then don’t do it. Refrain from it.
  • Will it violate my conscience?
  • And then, finally, that great summary statement in 1 Corinthians 10:31: Will it bring glory to God? Because that needs to be our greatest motivation. All for His glory.

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