Hey y'all! I hope you're doing well today! As I've been going through a particularly rich time of growing and learning in my life, I've also been realizing how important grace and understanding among believers is. I'd like to flesh this out in 5 ways we can handle situations in which our convictions have social ramifications. In this article I'm talking about issues of orthopraxy (right doing) not differences in orthodoxy (right believing).
1) Keep it to yourself.Matthew 6:1-4, "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them... When you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you do as the hypocrites...your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly."
The incredible, yet sometimes frustrating-to-our-flesh thing about convictions, is that they are a deeply personal thing. The Holy Spirit moves and works in each of us differently and we have to understand that first and foremost. We don't know how the Lord is working in someone else, nor do we need to broadcast how God is moving in our own hearts.
2) Participate in your own way.Romans 14:22-23, "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith, for whatever is not from faith is sin."
This chapter is amazing in the way it encourages us to love one another in our various convictions. Verse 14b says, "But to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." The examples given are issues (vegetables, day of worship, wine or no) that were of particular popularity in the early church because they were matters of interpreting the Old Testament. The language Paul uses (weak and strong) does convey that one brother is more full in his understanding of Scripture, yet there is no suggestion of pushing the weaker to take the position of the stronger. On the contrary, 14b says that it is a sin to violate your conscience and that we should have a healthy respect for one another's convictions.
So, for me, I am convicted to shop ethically for my clothing now that I am aware of the ways it affects people globally. (Read my post Please Stop Buying Cheap Clothes if you haven't yet) In general, this means boycotting stores like Forever 21, GAP, Old Navy, etc. But, I have a tradition of going Black Friday shopping at the mall with good friends. We have so much fun getting up early and exploring the (oddly empty) mall! But if I were to buy like I used to, I would be violating my "new conscience". My sisters and my friends have little to no conviction to "shop ethically", so although I personally did not buy much from the mall, I took Romans 14:22 to heart and was happy in my own way before the Lord, not worrying about what others are or are not convicted about. This isn't a "better than thou" attitude (if I had that I wouldn't be go, lol) but a spirit of joy in the journey.
[If hanging out at the mall were a frequent activity for my friends group, I would probably try to suggest other activities so that I wasn't constantly tempted, but this is a once-a-year thing.]
3) Quietly excuse yourself.Romans 14:12, "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God."
Sometimes, even when engaging in an activity would be a ton of fun for social reasons, our convictions are such that it would violate our conscience to participate, so excusing ourselves is best. There is a family in our church who has stricter movie-viewing standards than many of the other families. So, when a group of us is getting together to see a new Marvel movie or whatever, depending on the content, this family may just say, "Thanks for the invite, but we won't be seeing this without ClearPlay" and the rest of us respect that and try not to make it harder for them to say no. Sometimes their example will encourage all of us to change our plans and sometimes not. But the decorum with which they handle the situation is always a blessing.
4) Share your passion at a time when the issue is not at hand.Romans 14:19, "Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another." Ecclesiastes 3:1, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun."
We are all learning and growing in different areas at different times, but one of the super awesome things about friends is that we get to share, learn, and grow together. We can share what the Lord has laid on our hearts, we can excitedly send them a link to a great documentary we just watched, and we can rant over coffee about how Walmart treats their employees. As long as we approach with an attitude of humility and "this is the way I see it, you don't have to agree" we should feel safe sharing our hearts and passions. The wrong time to launch into your "soda-is-awful-and-your-body-is-a-temple" spiel is walking out of the gas station with your bottled water while your friend carries a Coke. If you are newly convicted about something and would like your friend to know and understand your perspective, choose a time at which emotions are not on high-alert and you are able to have a calm discussion. In my case, choosing a neutral time to share my passion usually means turning the greeting "How are you?" into an exuberant explanation of how the methylation cycle works and how everyone needs to be taking Vitamin C everyday. :P
5) Don't burn your friends with the fire of your passion.James 3:4-5, "Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!" Luke 6:45b, "For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."
When we're excited about something, we want to talk about it! When we've learned an interesting health fact or business concept, we want to share it! That's totally natural and a very good thing (because when we're filled with Jesus, we can't help but share!), but we have to be careful that in our bubbling over we don't alienate our friends and family who don't share our excitement.
When I was starting Fresh Apparel Denim Company, I listened to business podcasts for 8 or 9 hours a day nearly all summer long. This was an excellent education, but as you can imagine the only thing going on in my heart and mind was all business all the time. So, that's what I talked about and- go figure- not all of my friends shared this passion! It was hard for me to see at the time, but I was pretty annoying and dogmatic with it all. It's so easy to get wrapped up in an area of study when we're first getting into it that we forget we need to ask how our friends are doing, talk about something besides the different interpretations of Revelation, and shut our mouths a paragraph and a half before we want to. Better to have them ask questions than to have friends walk away bored out of their minds. :p
Unity, love, and joy in the Lord are SO important, especially in modern America where there are so many things Christians passionately disagree and argue about. There is also a ridiculous amount of compromise -- and expectation that we will compromise-- that we need to be on guard to not allow ourselves to grow indifferent or stop seeking the Lord's face on issues. Our consciences should not be dismissed as legalistic or silly. The Lord places convictions in our heart for a reason-- let's honor ourselves and others as we live them out. :)