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Romans 14: Navigating Moral Gray Areas3 min read

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blackwhitegrayWhile the scriptures are clear on the morality of some issues, on the more mundane issues, it is largely silent, and it is up to us to apply principle to determine these issues. So to answer questions of the gray areas of personal morality, Romans 14 is very instructive.

The Apostle Paul taught that, while some matters are black and white, other matters, like whether it is a sin to eat meat offered to idols, are up to the individual. He gives the following guide to navigating such gray areas:


Each person ought to obey his or her own conscience in the matter. If I feel something is wrong, I should not do it. If I feel it is OK, I can do it.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5)

2. Exercise CONCERN for Others

For those who feel free to engage in a questionable activity, Paul remarks that they should let concern for others guide their actions. If my friend feels it is *not* OK to drink alcohol (maybe he is an ex-alcoholic), but I feel it is OK for me, I should still restrain myself around him out of concern for him, even though my conscience does not bother me.

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (Romans 14:1) Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way (Romans 14:13) Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. (Romans 14:19)

There is a balance to this, though. If you have an overactive conscience because you are trapped in an overly strict ideology, you lack freedom, and I may need to tactfully display freedom in your presence to let you know that you are bound! Remember how willing Jesus was to offend the religious sensibilities of those caught in the Pharisaical religious system.

3. Avoid CONDEMNATION of Others

For those who do not feel free to engage in a questionable activity, Paul asks that they do not JUDGE the person who feels he has the freedom to do so. Each should obey his own conscience and leave it at that.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4) You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. (Romans 14:10)

Sweet, huh? Hat tip to J. Vernon McGee, the great radio bible teacher, who first showed me this. He’s not with us anymore, but his teaching is still on the radio!