Thursday, October 5, 2006

Assessing the strength of your convictions

Once again, a selection from Paul Manuel's article in the last Sabbath Recorder:
Just as you must be prepared to defer to the sensitivities of other believers, so you must recognize your own sensitivities and distinguish what is truly significant from what is simply trivial. In others words, you must be careful about assuming a stance that is unequivocally confident (dogmatic). You must recognize that there are different degrees of assertiveness for the positions you hold, and you must be able to gauge (and identify) the strength of your convictions appropriately.
Although I do none of these (i.e., peas, wine, idols), I do not avoid them with the same degree of conviction.
  • If someone invites me to dinner and serves peas, I will probably eat some to be polite. But I would decline a second helping, because that is my personal preference.
  • If my host offers me a glass of wine, I will decline, because I do not drink wine as a general principle. But if am taking communion in a church that uses wine, I may accept, because my conviction is not based on a scriptural prohibition against it.
  • If a Hindu acquaintance invites me to offer incense to Krishna, I will decline, because my conviction is based on a biblical precept. To violate that precept would damage my relationship with God.
Likewise, if you do not make such distinctions, if you accord all your convictions the same status (whether or not they have the same support of Scripture), you will either feel unnecessarily guilty when you fail to keep them or you will impose an unwarranted expectation on others to keep them.
  • If you accord an issue less status than Scripture gives it (e.g., permitting idolatry), you will fall short of the mark. You will not be holy, as the Bible prescribes.
  • If you accord an issue more status than Scripture gives it (e.g., prohibiting wine), you will overshoot the mark. You will be holier than the Bible prescribes.
As you formulate your convictions or evaluate them, assess their relative strength. Is the stand you take on a particular issue a matter of preference, principle, or precept?

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