The Bible teaches Situational Ethics

Acts 15:28-29 [the church in Jerusalem is telling the new Gentile converts that they do not have to obey the entire law of Moses but here were some things they should not do.]
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.

Wow. It sure was easy to be a Christian back then wasn’t it?   Just four things to avoid and “you will do well”.  In 2000 years we have added a lot to that list haven’t we?  But, though these are called “essentials”, Paul later changes some of these requirements based upon the situation.  Can something be right for one person but wrong for another person?  Are there only two choices?  Here is a summary of what the Word says.

Idols really are nothing but wood or stone.  But some people who used to worship idols may have a hard time feeling right about eating meat offered to idols.  If that is the case, even though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with eating it, it would be wrong for them to violate their conscience.  Furthermore, even though I realize there is nothing wrong with eating meat offered to idols, if I am in a situation where it will cause one who is troubled by it to either stumble by judging me or be tempted to violate their own conscience by following my lead, then I will choose to not eat meat offered to idols or any meat for that matter.  My brother’s conscience is so much more important than food.  [See 1 Corinthians 8 & Romans 4]

Based upon the situation, the condition of your heart and dictates of your conscience, what another person may be able to do may be wrong for you to do.  Contrariwise, what another might feel is wrong may be OK for you.  [Obviously we are not talking about anything in direct violation of Scriptural teaching but rather matters of conscience.]  How can this be so?

God understands the weak areas of my soul, areas that might tempt me where another might not have a problem.  For example, there is no Biblical command against using “a little wine for thy stomach’s sake” (1 Timothy 5:23) but because I know my biological father was often drunk, likely an alcoholic, for me it would be a violation of conscience to become a casual or social drinker.  There may be propensities toward evil in our soul that we are not aware of that God wants to protect us from by telling us “No, don’t go there” when He allows others to participate freely.  It is so important we listen to that inner voice and obey, even if it does not make sense or even if others, even Christians, freely participate.  Additionally it is also important we not decide what is right and wrong for everyone else. (Again, we are not referring to actions the Scripture clearly calls sin.)
Romans 14:4
Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One thought on “The Bible teaches Situational Ethics

  1. Wow, I was just dealing with this situation in my own life. I know how I feel about something, but struggle because there are so many of my friends that don’t feel the same way that I do and so what is ok for them is not ok for me. I want to be true to myself and convictions, and respect my friends and their convictions. Thanks for this post! Kassie

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