Summary: In the life of every Christian, there will eventually be a struggle between “oughts” and “actions.” Every day has a way of forcing choices upon us, putting us in the middle of things that we should or should not do. When it comes to decision making for
Nine Things NOT to Consider When Determining What’s Right Or Wrong
By Alex McFarland
“There is nothing wrong with what we did! Besides, we really love each other.” These were the reasons Jennifer gave for “going to far” with her boyfriend when confronted by her Mom. Jennifer knew what the Bible teaches about sexual activity, and she had even signed a “purity pledge” once, along with the rest of her youth group. But that was before Aaron, and he was different. He was the one. The new relationship had gradually led Jennifer to make some new and significant decisions. A heated discussion with her mother was now forcing Jennifer to justify those choices.
In the life of every Christian, there will eventually be a struggle between “oughts” and “actions.” Every day has a way of forcing choices upon us, putting us in the middle of things that we should or should not do. When it comes to decision making for the Christian, following God is the only real option. Sometimes we forget, but God has our best interests at heart. After all, God made us, so it is likely that He knows what is truly best for us. But at one time or another, we have all been influenced by less-than-godly sources of guidance.
The person who desires to walk with Christ will experience challenges big and small, significant and trivial. The following is a list of nine things not to consider when determining what is right or wrong. Maybe you too, have wrestled with some of these issues at one time or another:
1. The FEELINGS test. Many people today (even some Christians) have made feelings the ultimate standard for measurement in life. Actions are assumed to be OK, as long as the behavior in question feels right to us. Personal preference is fine when ordering lunch or picking out clothes. But moral truth is in no way determined by feelings. The assumption behind the “feelings test,” is that changing emotions are an accurate test for unchanging truth.
2. The AUTHORITY FIGURE TEST. Influence. Reputation. Honor. We’ve all been around people who are leaders. Certainly, it is proper to show respect to persons of authority, and to acknowledge the accomplishments of others. But all of the professors, teachers, elected officials, scientists – and even peers whose acceptance we crave – should not force us to accept things that we know are wrong.
3 and 4. The PRAGMATICS tests. The word “pragmatic” simply means “practical.” A pragmatic person wants to know what works- what action or thing will yield a good result. Jennifer defended her sexual activity partially by appealing to pragmatics. She said, “My friend did this, and she turned out OK.” The assumption here is that it can (in some cases) be right to do wrong. Jennifer could have turned the argument around, and said, “My friend abstained from this, and did not turn out OK.” The assumption behind this is that it can be wrong to do right.
.5. The ECONOMICS test. For some people, right and wrong cannot be decided until one sees the “price tag.” The opinion here is that something is right only if I think it is affordable. Should you pay back the friend who lent you some money, even though they have forgotten you owe it to them? Morality for some is like a business proposition, and one has to “crunch the numbers” before deciding what is right. But God says do right even if it costs you (see Psalm 15:4).
6. The POPULAR OPINION test. People of all ages struggle with this. How many of us have changed our mind about something because, “Most people I know seem to think that ____________ is OK…” However, truth is not determined by how many accept or reject an idea, or agree or disagree with a position. The question should be, “Is this true or false, right or wrong?”
7. The AGE test. Here is where Christian values have possibly suffered the most. Some say that the Bible may be a moral guidebook, but what is says is old-fashioned. After all, it was written hundreds of years ago. But while humans and cultures do change, God and does not. Many things in life do have an expiration date (like deli meats or concert tickets), and can reach a point where they are no longer useable. But God’s truth is timeless, and recognizing this will always be worthwhile. What was right, is still right. If God said something was wrong, then it is still wrong.
8. The REPUTATION test. I also call this, the “Ego Protection Test.” Maybe you have said to yourself, “If I take a stand for what I believe, the people around me will not understand.” That may be so. Jesus was the embodiment of everything right, true, and good, yet He was misunderstood by some people. A Christian must never put popularity before faithfulness.