by Mark G. Holbrook
What does it mean to “hurt” another believer? I’m not talking about hurting someone’s feelings, or even causing physical pain.
If you look at Romans 14, specifically verse 15 (“For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.”), you see a definition for “hurt” that means causing people to be spiritually weakened by your example. Tempting them to violate their conscience. Causing them to stumble.
Even among Bible-believing Jesus-followers, there are distinctions in personal convictions. And, clearly, not all convictions are absolute. Some seemingly important issues are “non-essential.” In fact, it is possible that we might actually be wrong on some things that seem really important to us. This passage is not talking about vital non-negotiables of the faith (such as the virgin birth, salvation by grace through faith, or clear commands of Scripture).
While Romans 14 speaks of close personal relationships, especially in the family and in the church, the passage also applies in a Christian workplace. So, how can we protect the convictions of fellow believers in our work environment?
- Recognize that sincere, faithful Christians will differ on some important issues. No matter how strongly you may feel, be careful not to judge. Be as fully convinced as you can based on clear scriptural principles and wise counsel. Don’t let your emotions run away, and allow room for differing opinions. (Again, this is in regard to non-essential issues.)
- Seek to be sensitive to the convictions and feelings of one another. Even be willing to give up your right to engage in some activities that you are fully convinced are acceptable before the Lord for the sake of fellow believers. Do not let Satan use such an issue as a wedge.
- Be especially careful to set aside your Christian liberty when there is a possibility that others may choose to engage in the behavior you model, and in the process violate their own conscience. In the Bible, this applied to eating meat offered to idols. Today, we could liken this to abstaining from alcohol around those whose convictions keep them from drinking.
- Avoid asking anyone to violate his conscience. Do not ask any employee to engage in a business activity that violates a sincerely held, biblically based conviction. If a faithful volunteer believes Christian rock isn’t, well, Christian, maybe you don’t ask him to help out with your next concert.
- Finally, recognize that there is a limit to this responsibility. We cannot modify our behavior for every conceivable situation, nor can we please everyone or avoid every potential offense.
Have you ever laid aside your Christian liberties to protect the conscience and convictions of a fellow believer? We’d love to hear about it.