My personality style tends to see things as black and white. I appreciate clearly defined boundaries and identify things as right and wrong. Some suggest the Bible is silent on many issues and they label these issues as “gray areas.” For example, some argue the Bible doesn’t address smoking. There are many words that cannot be found in Scripture, but the absence of those words does not suggest the subject is irrelevant to the Christian life.
When I was in high school, my youth pastor, Doug King, taught us the principle that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and that He lives within us. Therefore, misuse of our own body is sinful. He also taught us the principle that our actions should not cause others to sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:9, 13; Romans 14:13; Luke 17:1-4; Mark 9:42). We don’t want to become a stumbling block to another.
God does not want us to be deceived. Therefore, the Bible provides us with timeless principles that can be applied in any culture. Since my days in the youth group I have discovered there are many principles to help us navigate these difficult “gray areas.” It is my personal goal to develop deep convictions that will strengthen my walk with Christ and transform my life to be more like Him.
Listed below are seven biblical principles that come from the book of 1 Corinthians. Let me encourage you to consider a particular “gray area” and then work through each of the passages of Scripture and the questions of application. Look closely at the context of the original passage and carefully consider how the principle of the passage applies to your own situation.
Scripture Reference 1: 1 Corinthians 6:12-14
Principle 1: Do not allow yourself to be mastered by anything except Christ.
Application Question 1: Could this master me and get me in its control?
There are some things that we might be allowed to do, but they are not beneficial to our walk with Christ. In fact, they may even take God’s rightful place in our lives. You may want to ask yourself, “Could I be totally content without this in my life?”
Scripture Reference 2: 1 Corinthians 6:15-19
Principle 2: Do things that will strengthen your relationship with Christ.
Application Question 2: Does this strengthen my relationship with Christ?
We live in a culture where we state “it’s my life” or “it’s my body” and I can do whatever I want with my own body. For the Christian, your body is not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, the things we do with our bodies should bring glory and honor to God. Anything we do that causes harm to our bodies does not strengthen our relationship with Christ.
Scripture Reference 3: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Principle 3: Do not put yourself in situations of obvious temptation.
Application Question 3: Does this tempt me against God’s Will?
Too often, we as Christians ignore God’s instructions to flee from sin. Instead, we flirt and move dangerously close to the edge. Instead of avoiding environments where we will be tempted, we put ourselves in compromising situations.
Scripture Reference 4: 1 Corinthians 8:9, 13
Principle 4: Do not cause others to stumble.
Application Question 4: Could this cause others to stumble?
Are you willing to sacrifice personal freedoms for the sake of helping others in their walk? One of the marks of maturing in the faith is giving consideration to the maturing faith of others. If your action may cause others to stumble in their walk it may require personal sacrifice on your part.
Scripture Reference 5: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Principle 5: Do all things for the sake of reaching others with Christ.
Application Question 5: Does this help or hinder me in reaching others with Christ?
If this “gray area” would actually prevent you from sharing the gospel with others, then we must avoid it. Our actions should create opportunities to share the gospel with others, not hinder them.
Scripture Reference 6: 1 Corinthians 10:23-33
Principle 6: Do everything for the glory of God.
Application Question 6: Does this glorify God?
Worship is more than a weekend service, our daily choices and actions should be acts of worship. No matter what we do, it should bring glory to His name.
Scripture Reference 7: 1 Corinthians 12
Principle 7: Do things that will strengthen the church body.
Application Question 7: Does this strengthen or weaken my relationship with others in the church body?
We should be united in mission. While we have diversity in gifts and abilities, there must be a unity in accomplishing the church’s mission. I must be careful that my behavior does not actually prevent or hinder the mission of the church.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."