IS NOT THE RIGHT QUESTION
A few weeks ago, I was at an equipping meeting where Pastor Paolo Punzalan was tasked to talk about “drinking in the light of our faith.”
As believers, we are to keep blameless lives. This doesn’t mean we are perfect, but we must aim to lead honorable lives that draw others closer to God instead of causing them to stumble.
Of course, whatever is stumbling to me may not be stumbling to another. This sort of problem becomes even trickier when we talk about worlds, cultures, context. Like I am now here in South Africa and wine is very much a part of their culture. To drink a glass of red wine here does not send a message of licentiousness, but back home in Manila, it might just be questionable to those who may see me or my husband do it.
Then there are other things like smoking, being in a party place, the way we dress, hanging out with people who would smoke, drink and have casual sex — all those together make it very confusing. What do we do when we are to lead blameless lives while also commanded to engage a very lost world?
Well, Pastor Paolo gave four very helpful questions to help us process our situations.
What does the Bible teach?
What does culture expect?
What does our church community expect?
What is your motive or heart’s reason?
I tried using these questions to process, let’s say, a dilemma in wearing a short, tight fitting dress that I think comes across as stylish and looks good on me.
What does the Bible teach? To dress and adorn oneself modestly, and to rather be clothed with dignity and strength.
What does culture expect? It’s pretty normal if we talk about the culture of the world. Even more permissible when we think about the culture of the former industry that I was in, which was television and film industry.
What does our church community expect? That I am aligned with God’s Word and be the changed person that I am. I have had a specific context of holding a sensual image back when I was still in the entertainment business, so perhaps people who still have a memory of that would like to see me otherwise. It also doesn’t help that I am very curvy, so a tight dress that might look okay on a thin friend might just send a stylish message and not a sensual one like me. Now it is important to note that unlike the world, sensuality for believers is only to be practiced among husband and wife within the confines of their private space, and not to be displayed before the community.
What is your motive? I really just want to wear something that makes me look good.
And so, taking all of these together, I realised that I had more reason tugging me to the direction not to wear the dress. All the same, may it be a drink, a night’s party, a mere fashion statement, what is it that I give that up what pleases me and opt to take the path of least resistance? After all, people growing in the Lord are more important than the shallow pleasing of myself.
These four questions are so useful for processing what my husband calls “disputable matters.” That is, matters that do not have flat out right or wrong answers, and often, not addressed directly in the Bible. So when in doubt, it is helpful to use these questions or you can also see if this simplified version will help you:
First of all, of course, see God’s Word. Then, perhaps this:
Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
When in doubt, choose the path of love. The Christian way is never about being right or wrong, not that there isn’t any, but that winning an argument is not the point of this faith. The truth is that for believers like us, to be proven right isn’t as important as giving up our rights if only to choose the path that will most build the faith of His church and His people. After all when Jesus called for disciples He didn’t really say “come and be right with me,” but “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.”