Personal Convictions

Reading in Romans 14 Paul was cautioning the church that we need to be careful about how we manage our own personal convictions. Both for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of others. Because the gospel is about denying ourselves, and preferring others, the focus here is really about being careful not to offend someone who is newer or weaker in their faith by doing things in front of them that they see as wrong. Paul used foods as an example because abstaining from certain foods was such a big deal in the Jewish culture. Dietary restrictions really aren’t a source of contention for the average Christian because most of us are “Gentile” born and have never had to follow a Jewish kosher diet in our entire lives. Christians today tend to squabble over other things like secular music, movies, or whether or not it’s wrong to drink alcohol or go to certain places, or use certain words. These are all personal convictions, and we all have them and we all need them. Convictions are really important because they guide our moral compass, and they help keep us focused and grounded in Christ. People who have struggled in certain areas of their lives may have a personal conviction to not associate with certain environments because for them it represents something that had a past hold on them. Maybe for one person, going to a bar leads them back into a place where they had a weakness of loneliness and going to bars to them meant that they would inevitably meet someone and go home with them. For them, going to a bar, or maybe even listening to certain type of music causes a draw on their hearts that have the potential to pull them back into that loneliness where a sin temptation arises.  For the person who knows they struggle that way, it is wisdom for them to stay away from bars so that the risk of temptation doesn’t pull them back into past sin. The decision to never enter a bar would be a wise personal conviction to them and because of their past struggle with sin, it would literally be wrong for them to go to a bar because it would violate their own personal conviction that they set for themselves.  Another person who has never struggled in this area may not understand this conviction because it has never been an issue for them. They can sit in a bar and enjoy a drink with friends and go home without any loneliness or temptation to go home with someone they met. They have no pull or struggle of any kind. If that friend flaunted his freedom and ability to go to a bar in front of his friend, or worse, made fun of his friend who has chosen to stay away from bars, he would be incredibly unloving and he would be guilty of trying to pull his friend back into sin temptation. We don’t all have the same struggles, so we don’t all have the same personal convictions. Paul makes it clear that if we have a guilt conscience about doing certain things, then these things are convictions to us and if we violate our own conscience by doing them anyway it becomes sin to us. We don’t have to share the same convictions as others, but we are absolutely responsible for respecting other people in their own convictions without trying to talk them out of them. If you talk someone out of their personal conviction you are guilty of causing them to stumble and sin. God holds us accountable for that. What I really pulled from this today was that sometimes we don’t realize when we do this to people. Sometimes people tell us their convictions and if those things are not a pull in our own lives personally, sometimes we have the tendency to downplay the fact that their conviction about it makes it wrong for them. We may feel a different kind of freedom, and our freedom is not wrong, but it becomes wrong if we flaunt our freedom to them or try to talk them out of their conviction.

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