When we decide to grow deeper with Christ there is often another C word that enters the process, that word is conviction. According to the dictionary, a conviction is a belief or opinion that is held firmly. As Christians, we sometimes confuse our personal convictions with Biblical truth. In doing so, we impose our convictions with the belief that if other believers aren’t convicted by the same thing as us then they must be sinning. When we do this, we create stumbling blocks that can cause our brothers and sisters in Christ to feel guilty in situations where guilt is unnecessary. In order to debunk this confusion, I believe we must learn to differentiate Biblical truth from personal conviction.
Biblical Truth vs Personal Convictions
In the Bible, there are many instructions that are firm and basically not up for debate. For example, the ten commandments say to us “thou shalt not lie;” the Lord could have easily said that we should not tell a lie if it hurts another person, and left us with wiggle room to tell “harmless” lies, but he didn’t. Not being able to lie was a non-negotiable command, so lying is a firm no, this is an example of Biblical truth. Biblical truths are biblical principles and commands (given by God) that are unchangeable.
Personal convictions, on the other hand, apply to the gray areas in the bible; areas in which Paul describes as disputable in Romans 14.
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
Disputable matters are areas in which the Bible does not give firm direction, leaving you the option of making a decision based on your personal preference. There are quite a few disputable issues in the word that have caused division amongst the body of Christ. A few well-known grey issues are drinking alcohol, body piercings, bible translations, acceptable music and the specifics of dressing modestly (this is just me touching the surface.) If we were to tackle the area of drinking alcohol, we could look at Ephesians 5:6 which says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the holy spirit.” We are not told, “Do not drink wine (period),” which would have been a firm instruction, instead we are left with the opportunity to make a decision at our own discretion. Both the person who chooses to drink alcohol and the person who does not are able to live a godly life, as long as they are not getting drunk. This is why there is no need for condemnation or separation. Although it is okay to share our personal convictions, we should never force others to accept our preferences as their own.
I write this from two standpoints, one of the person who has tried to force their convictions on others and also as the person who has had convictions forced upon them; Believe me, I can relate to whichever stance you identify with. The message I am hoping to relay is one of love, consideration, and kindness. It is important to be considerate and respectful to the convictions of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as it is not our job to judge or chastise (that job is reserved for God alone.) Through Christ Jesus, we were freed from the bonds of legalism, and by imposing our personal convictions on others we are only moving backward. Christ has given us the freedom to develop our own convictions on gray areas in the word, and I believe that once our faith is grounded in Christ we will be led towards the proper preferences for our life.
Have you ever confused personal conviction with biblical truth? *raises hand*