Beware of the Pitfalls Around Truth & Convictions

We've all seen it: arguments that break out over differences in opinion about truth and different convictions in people's lives. To spank or not to spank? Biblically, can a divorced person remarry? Should a woman cut her hair? Should men be the sole providers in a household? Is it OK to use birth control, and if so, which kinds?

Sometimes the arguments blow over, and sometimes they divide friendships, divide families, or divide the church. There are two pitfalls that we can all fall into when dealing with truth & convictions:

(1) The first pitfall is to say "all truth is relative"... "what's true for you may not be true for me", etc. "There is no way we can KNOW anything, but we all believe what we believe, and I can't speak into anyone else's life."

- Of course, the downfalls with this are many: why believe anything if you don't believe that WHAT you believe is true? Wouldn't it be easier to just live "free" from constraint, rather than to have the requirements of a particular faith, if you really don't believe it's 100% true anyhow? There are absolutes in Scripture, and we need to be absolutely convicted about those. And we can carefully and lovingly encourage and exhort others to follow the Word of God in those areas that are explicitly clear.
"Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me. "- Jim Elliot

(2) The second pitfall is to say "everything I believe, no matter how fundamental, and no matter how trivial is critically important." Using this line of reasoning, everything from the length of skirts I choose to the version of the Bible I believe is best, from the way to raise children to which companies to support or which holidays to celebrate and how becomes essential. Someone who espouses this kind of legalism soon finds themselves with less and less options for people to be friends with, because they have this mindset: "In order for me to have fellowship with someone, we must see eye to eye on everything."

- The downfall with this one is obvious: in truth, you probably don't see 100% eye-to-eye on every subject or issue with anyone on earth. And in truth, each of our lives is a process... you were not born with the convictions you now hold. Neither were you born feeling the freedom that Christ has given you. Each of us goes through a process to come to the personal beliefs and convictions that guide our lives. [I am not talking about clear biblical commands... I am speaking of personal, specific convictions... i.e., movies, hair length, what constitutes modesty, etc.] Consider this:
"According to Romans 14, people on both sides [of any matter of conviction] are neither to judge nor disparage one another. The free person is not to flaunt his or her freedom; the person for whom such matters are a deep personal conviction is not to condemn someone else." -Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

As I've mentioned before, the key is staying on the road. We have to avoid the ditches on either side of the road and try to keep a balanced perspective.

I don't want to be like the Pharisees and create extrabiblical, man-made burdens and rules that no one can live up to. Neither do I want to be an apathetic Christian, who lives without conviction and biblical standards built into my life. We need to be striving for balance, even though none of us may carry it out perfectly.

Let's prayerfully and lovingly give each other truth AND grace.


Anna S said...

Jess, you make two very good points here. I also believe we shouldn't be afraid to have strong convictions, but on the other hand we should beware of legalism.

PS: Love your new blog design.

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Jennie Chancey said...

Another wonderful, thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing this. We live in an age of rampant relativism, where mega-churches fill up precisely because no one will be made uncomfortable about biblical commands or passages about sin (see this sobering post). On the other hand, it is tempting for Christians to swing to the other end of the pendulum and begin chopping off relations and friends who aren't totally in line with their particular convictions. We must strive to be biblical and charitable. It's something every one of us has to work on throughout our lives, remembering that God is sanctifying all of us--not just our neighbors! ;-)

On a side note, I love the new page design. The colors are easy on the eyes, and the fonts and pictures are delightful. (I got a kick out of the photo of goats butting heads, too!)


Terri said...

Amen to this post!

Brenda said...


You said this very well.

Anonymous said...

Good post Jess. I feel incredibly strong about my convictions, and take them seriously due to the fact that I've come a long way in my walk with Christ.

Sure I find it easier to "get along" with people who have the same convictions as I do, but I try and remember that everyone is in different "spiritual seasons" of their lives. Some of my friends do not share the same beliefs as I do, but I'm not going to push my beliefs on them, just as they wouldn't push their beliefs on me. We know what each other believes and respectfully hold each other accountable when we feel it's not like we "just don't talk" about our morals, values, etc.

I want to lead by example...I'm IN this world, but not OF this world. Prayerfully that will win some hearts to Christ :)

PS. So really let me know if you ever think I'm out of line, ok?? :)

CappuccinoLife said...

I agree! And God has really been stretching us in this area lately. There only one family in our immediate area who's convictions 'match' ours to any degree.

But we are still able to have good fellowship with folks who might raise an eyebrow or two about our family's choices.

Kim said...

I think, like you mentioned, it all points back to Romans 14. I think that we each have been convicted of certain things, perhaps because of our weaknesses as much as anything. And so it seems as though we cannot expect another person to be 100 percent convicted about the same things - the Holy Spirit works in each life, and He is who we must obey!

Andrea said...

Great post, JEss. This *needs* to be clarified, especially in this "culture of choice". Convictions are good, and from the Lord, but they should not get in the way of our true purpose: glorifying Him and spreading the Gospel.

LisaM said...

Amen to you and the responses here. I was just talking about this with someone, and I really appreciate the way you explain this. I'm glad you let us share. :)

Terry said...

Great post, Jess. I think it perfectly illustrates what Paul wrote: "Be well balanced, because our adverary is seeking those he can devour." Any time we live life in unreasonable extremes, be they too liberal or to constraining, we short-circuit our ability to win those who are turned off by our legalism, or diminish the power of the gospel to chnage lives when we present it from a seeker driven point a view. Balance is key: well said!

Megan Preedy said...

Hey Jess,

This was a great reminder, and goes along with something God has been teaching me lately. I think that whenever people have "stronger" or different convictions than me, it causes me to doubt myself or re-evaluate where I feel God has led me. That's not a bad thing, but to feel "less spiritual" is, or for me to feel "more spiritual" or closer to God because my conviction is more extreme is wrong. I have been seeing in Scripture that there are many things that are blessings (children, giving, persecution, etc.) But God is the giver of all of these things, and he gives more of them to some than to others. Each life is perfecly crafted with it's individual amount of blessing and struggle by Him. So if I feel differently about contraception or home schooling or whatever issue than my friend and we are both truly seeking the Lord, then I am beginning to see these two paths are not contradictory, but complementary as they are showing even more how uniquely God deals with each of His children, bringing Him all the more glory! :)