A Great Question
As a Christian, I’m always looking for a way to simplify my decision-making process. If I have to go through an in-depth study every time I need to make a decision regarding whether I should or should not do a particular activity, I’m more likely to engage in the wrong side of the activity. One unemotional and non-confrontational example for the sake of this article is whether I should or should not speak to someone else about how they’ve offended me.
The answer is often not to cast aside the thinking process and just paint with a broad brush. I cannot just argue that I should always engage in every possible confrontation with others when they’ve offended me. We all know that not all situations are equal. If it were truly a small issue, I might end up escalating the situation and “making a mountain out of a molehill.” Likewise, if I let what is a major issue go neglected because I never rebuke others, I might doom this person to never learning better or doom my relationship with this other person.
The answer is often not to argue only what is lawful. God gives us certain freedoms in His laws. He doesn’t tell us to confront every person when they’ve offended us. Matthew 18 does not tell us to go and talk to every person who offends us. In context, after speaking of this process of confrontation in verses 15-18, He speaks of forgiveness “seven times seventy” in verses 21-22. Within God’s law, I have the right to confront the other person and I have the right to forgive them outright and never bring up the offense.
The answer, it seems to me, is to ask myself the question Paul gives us multiple times in 1 Corinthians:
“‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are l awful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything” (6.12).
“‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up” (10.23).
Here we find three principles to ask ourselves when it comes to a permissible activity, but not a necessary activity.
Is the activity profitable or helpful? If not, don’t. If so, do.
Is the activity going to dominate my time, my energy, or my relationship? If not, do it. If so, don’t do it.
Is the activity going to build up my relationship with God or with others? If not, don’t. If so, do.
These are easy questions to answer. Take the example we’ve used through this article. If engaging in the difficult conversation is going to be helpful to them, going to be something I can do without dominating my time, and is something that will build my relationship with them, I should have the conversation. If I cannot argue for those benefits, then I should avoid the conversation.
These principles apply in so many areas of life where we are given freedom to choose our course of action. Just remember—It’s not just about what is right and wrong, but about what is wise!