By Pauline Daniel
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. – Rom 14:14
How do we react when we encounter a person whose scruples seem silly to us? It may be that they think watching movies is wrong, or that listening to secular music is wrong, or that drinking alcohol is wrong. Do we make fun of the person, or argue with the person or in other ways put pressure on the person to go against their convictions and do as we see fit? A teetotaller friend once told me that she faced more ridicule for her abstinence from her Christian friends than she did from other friends.
Why do we pressure people to go against their convictions? It may be that we think we are liberating them from meaningless restrictions. But while it may be perfectly fine for us to engage in these activities that bother them, Paul says that we are harming them when we pressure them to do likewise. In fact, he says that we are destroying God’s work in their lives (Rom 14:20).
But how is it that something that is okay for one person to do is wrong for another person? That is because Christianity is not a bunch of rules to be followed but a relationship with Christ that leads us to seek to please him above all else. And if we think, rightly or wrongly, that something is not pleasing to him and still go ahead and do it, that is sin because we’re now acting to please someone other than Christ.
It's probably more important that we're true to our convictions than whether or not our convictions are correct. We must not do things simply because others do them, nor force others to do things simply because we are happy about them (Dave Tomlinson, “The Post Evangelical”).
So, we need to distinguish between commands given by God and our opinions. Commands that God has given us must be obeyed by all. But our opinions on what is acceptable or not should not be forced on others. Each of us needs to live as we think is pleasing to God for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Rom 14:23).