The problem of evil is a very difficult issue for many Christians. Most people reading this article have seen someone lose their faith or justify atheism with this exact problem. Maybe some of you have struggled with it too — I did for a long time.
Evil is dysfunction. What God made in the beginning was functional and good. At some point, forces outside of this earth rebelled against God. We don’t know when this happened, but it was before mankind sinned (Genesis 2.16-17, 3.4-5; Ezekiel 28), likely before humanity was even created.
But evil exists on earth because we introduced it. We opened that pandora’s box because we were given the freedom to do so. God warned us not to, but we did it anyway. So why doesn’t he stop bad things from happening to good people? He often does. Hebrews 1.14 and Matthew 18.10 prove that he uses angels to help his family. Evil still exists because it allows us to choose our own destiny.
We do have to remember, though, that satan runs the planet right now (II Corinthians 4.4). This is his time, before he’s tortured around the clock for eternity (Revelation 20.10).
When we introduced dysfunction to earth, it had far-reaching consequences (Romans 8.15ff). Evil is short-lived and on borrowed time. Jesus defeated satan when he came back to life (Hebrews 2.14; Colossians 2.14-15). Evil affects us all, but it won’t last forever. Just because it still exists now does not mean that God doesn’t exist or doesn’t love us. His unlimited forgiveness should be enough to get us through this life so we can leave evil behind forever (II Corinthians 12.8-9). It’s hard to have that mindset, but it’s worth it.
Solomon takes two primary approaches in the first nine chapters of Proverbs to encourage us to become wiser. First, Solomon assumes the role of a father instructing his sons to heed his sage counsel (Proverbs 1.8; 4.1). Second, Solomon uses the personification of wisdom as a woman to provide his students with something tangible to follow (Proverbs 1.20; 8.1).
Regarding this latter approach, Solomon even provides a foil to Lady Wisdom in the personification of folly. So, those who want to become wise have someone to follow and avoid. We have seen Miss Folly wield her influence over men and women in chapters one through eight, nearly coming out of the shadows in the form of the adulteress in Proverbs 7. Yet, in Proverbs 9, Miss Folly comes out into the open to extend her competing invitation alongside Lady Wisdom’s offer.
Wisdom and Folly compete for the same audience. They both desire to receive the companionship of the naïve and those lacking understanding (9.4). There is no need to compel the righteous or wise as they will already want to be in the companionship of Wisdom (9.8-9). But Wisdom opens her house and has her servants invite people to her feast (9.1-6).
Wisdom is a gracious hostess. She has a great house with seven pillars. In terms of the identity of these pillars, is it a coincidence that our Lord’s half-brother uses seven adjectives to describe the wisdom from above in James 3.17? If not, the pillars of Wisdom’s house are purity, peace, obedience, industry, impartiality, and sincerity. Indeed, these qualities are not inconsistent with the wisdom Solomon encourages others to possess. And entry into Wisdom’s house multiplies one’s days and adds years to their life (9.11).
Wisdom does more than send out her servants to garner the most attendants. Instead, she calls out to the people from a high vantage point above the city. Lady Wisdom is proactive in her approach, demonstrating her genuine concern for people. But despite how admirable her actions are, one realizes that she must be passionate because her enemy can accomplish much more while doing less.
Miss Folly ensures others can see her (9.14), but she does even get up out of her seat. As I read about Miss Folly’s approach, I could not help but think of a prostitute’s solicitation. For example, if one visits Amsterdam’s red-light district, he sees sex workers standing in store-front windows as if on display in lingerie, smiling and flirting with the passersby. Yes, if someone walks through the red-light district, he knows what he wants. I believe Miss Folly likely realizes this as well.
One has to put forth no effort to remain naïve. The wisdom-averse can continue to scoff and act wickedly (9.7). However, this one believes Miss Folly when she says, “Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9.17 NASB1995). In other words, Miss Folly requires no discipline from her guests. They do not have to reform themselves or strive to do and be better.
Miss Folly would be nothing more than a nuisance if it weren’t for her boisterousness attracting the attention of even those attempting to keep their paths straight (9.13-15). But, as Christians know, the alternative to the “strait gate” and narrow way is that colloquial “highway to hell” (Matthew 7.13-14). Solomon warns us that Miss Folly’s houseguests end up in the depths of Sheol (9.18). That is reason enough to avoid Miss Folly and attend Lady Wisdom’s feast.
We must choose which invitation to accept. We will listen to Lady Wisdom, who has done a lot of planning and always keeps her promises. Or Lady Folly, who promises much but delivers nothing? The choice should be obvious.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t the “apple” on the tree that got us banned from paradise, it was the pair on the ground…anyway, I want us to take a trip back to the beginning. This is where our account takes place. In Genesis chapter one, God has just created the world as He intended for it to be. A place of peace and harmony. No pain, sorrow, and a perfect relationship with his creation. After this incredible account of creation, God concludes by creating man. He designed a perfect world for Adam and Eve. He placed them in the garden, a perfect home where they had everything they would need.
He gives them only one command in Gen. 2:15-17, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
The following account in chapter three is what I want to focus on. God gave Adam a helper suitable for him and her name was Eve. Everything was perfect. God even says after He looked upon his creation that everything was “very good.” But one decision changed the course of mankind forever.
In this account of the sinners at the tree, Adam and Eve are an example of what not to do when faced with temptation. This account also reveals the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world.
Satan Sows Doubt (3:1-5)
Eve Felt Desire (3:6)
The Fall And Punishment (3:7-24)
One question that I’ve always had about this account is why God placed this forbidden tree in the garden. Genesis 2:9 says, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Did God set Adam and Eve up to fail? Was He hoping they would slip up and eat the fruit? On the contrary, God was giving Adam and Eve the power of free will. Without this free will to choose, Adam and Eve would’ve been puppets.
True love always requires a choice.
Our parents would make us hug and apologize when we fought with each other. And I can tell you, there is a big difference between a hug that is forced and a hug that is given out of love and concern. God wanted Adam and Eve to choose to love and trust Him. The only way to give this choice was to command something that was not allowed. Therefore Adam and Eve could decide whether or not they wanted to be in a relationship with God. What choice will we make today? Will we live in sin, or live for Almighty God?
What is submission? There are many who hear this word and think of weakness. They believe that if you are submissive, you’re at the bottom of the food chain. Is this really the case?
The Bible uses this word in several different passages, and we will take a look at these verses in depth and figure out the true definition of submission.
The original word comes from the Greek, hypotasso, which can be used several different ways depending on the context in which it is used. The first definition is “to cause to be in a submissive relationship” and the second is “to become subject, subject oneself” (BDAG). With these definitions in mind, let’s notice how scripture uses this word.
James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Who must submit? Everyone. Who are we submitting to? God. What is the outcome? The Devil will flee. In this text, submission is the act of putting God in charge of our lives. In doing so we no longer chase after sin and Satan will flee from us.
Col. 3:18: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Who must submit? Wives. Who are they submitting to? The husband. For what reason? God has commanded. In this text, submission is what the wife must do in her marriage in order to be approved of God. A submissive wife is fitting in the Lord.
Eph. 5:21: “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Who must submit? The Christian. Who are we submitting to? Other Christians. Why are we submitting? Out of reverence (deep respect and awe) for Christ. If we say that we revere Christ, we must submit to each other and place our brothers and sisters above self.
Eph. 5:24: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” Who is submitting? The church, as well as the wives in the same way we (as a church body) submit to Christ. A submissive church looks to Christ for every spiritual decision. They do this because they are no longer in control. A wife submits to her husband by looking at the example of the church or “the bride of Christ.”
Titus 2:5, 9; 3:1: “to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative. Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.” Who is submitting? Wives, bondservants, and those who have experienced Christ (2:14). Who are they submitting to? Husbands, masters, rulers and authorities. Why are they submitting? So the Word of God won’t be criticized or abused, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God (10), and because we aren’t who we used to be (3).
1 Peter 2:18; 3:22; 5:5: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Servants are called to submit to their masters. Why? “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (19). In chapter 3:1, wives are to submit to their husbands so that they may win their husband by their actions. In 3:22 the angels, authorities, and powers have been placed under Christ. In 5:5, the young are to submit to the elders.
Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Who is supposed to submit here? Every person. To whom? The governing authorities. Why? Only God can give authority, those that are in place have been instituted by God. If we refuse to submit (break their laws), “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Submission is the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. In scripture several groups are commanded to have this attitude:
Submission is not weakness. It takes strength to make this choice. We aren’t forced into submission, but it is a choice each one of us must make.
Have you made that choice? If you have, understand that there will be times where you fail. Thankfully God is willing to forgive those who have sinned.
Submission means we give up what we want, and act the way God wants us to act.
Note: This is not going to be a quick read. Any answer to the question addressed is going to require some theological/philosophical consideration.
Stephen Fry is a well-known actor, activist, humanist, and athiest. When asked what he would say to God in a face-to-face, he replied, “Bone cancer in children, what’s that about? … How dare you create a world where there is such misery that is not our fault?” There’s more to the quote, but this sums it up.
“How can evil and a loving God coexist?” At some point, we have to confront this question in our own faith. Some can accept the problem of evil as being a byproduct of a fallen world. Others – especially those who have experienced evil firsthand – have a hard time justifying the two.
Most answers offered sound something like this: “The creation groans with the pains of childbirth up to now. Man, as a free moral agent, transgressed God’s law and brought the consequences of sin upon humanity. God cannot look upon evil, and certainly does not cause it. Every good thing and every perfect gift comes down from the father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
While the principles in this explanation are correct, it fails to address the question on at least two levels. One, it does not answer how God could allow evil to affect humans. We exist, technically, against our will. Two, it utilizes jargon. It’s easier to say religious-sounding things to answer difficult questions, but anyone struggling with this problem knows how frustrating this answer can be. It doesn’t address the question, and sometimes comes across as avoiding it altogether.
The following is based on personal study, as I’d wrestled with this problem, too. To be very clear: God loves us, and the existence of evil does not change that at all. This question was answered for me through an unrelated study that put a few things into perspective. Here’s the condensed version:
God created reality, and it was flawless (Gen 1.31). In fact, Jesus described heaven as being a return to this flawlessness (Matt 19.28). The code of reality was intact. God didn’t force us to love him, he gave us freedom to choose for ourselves. According to Romans eight, nature was fundamentally affected by the choice we made. This choice essentially introduced a bug into the code of reality. God didn’t create evil, we did.
Even though our choice has consistently been rejection – and we’re solely responsible for messing everything up – he still gave up everything to give us a second chance. Yes, Jesus sacrificed himself on a cross. This was extremely selfless and loving in itself. But this was NOT the only sacrifice he made.
Jesus – the one who designed and built reality (John 1) – permanently demoted himself for humans. He gave up his status to die for us (Heb 2.7). He’s in the father’s chair right now, but will step back down after the end of time (Heb 1.14; 2.8-9). He is still God, but permanently lower because he’s still human, too (I Tim 2.5; I Cor 11.3; I Jn 3.1-3; Heb 2.11-18).
So, how can evil and a loving God coexist? We’re stuck with the way reality is now, but he fundamentally changed himself to give us a second chance. He works full-time to get his family home (Rom 8.27; I Tim 2.5; I Jn 2.1-2). We changed the terms, but he changed the consequences. The most powerful entity in the universe stepped down – forever – knowing most of us would ignore it. When we look at it that way, it puts our own culpability into perspective and demonstrates God’s infinite capacity to love.
Christianity is important to us. Making sure we live the right way is important to us. Because our loyalty to God is important to us, and because our lifestyle is characterized by avoiding evil, many believe that our mission in life is to defeat evil. Some Christians believe that this involves social activism or influencing public opinion. Nothing about this is intrinsically wrong, but it cannot be our primary focus.
Evil exists, period. Humanity introduced evil when we disobeyed God. As we noted last week, evil is on borrowed time thanks to Jesus, but it will exist until the end of time. So, what’s our job if fighting evil isn’t top of the list?
Christians are people who decide to follow God. That means living based on his moral code, not on humanity’s. That means we avoid practicing morally evil things. We recognize the influence that evil has on the world. We understand the consequences of choosing evil over God.
Christians are recruiters! We’re a tight knit group of people with shared goals, views, and struggles. Part of our job is to keep each other strong (Gal. 6.10; I Pet. 1.22; Heb. 3.12,13). The rest of our job is to recruit people to populate heaven (Matt. 28.19; Acts 20.24; Jn.15). God also expects us to be good citizens and live quiet, peaceful lives (Rom. 13; I Pet. 2.13; I Tim. 2.2; I Thess. 4.11).
Jesus defeated evil (I Jn. 3.8, 4.4; Col. 2.15), and he will personally destroy it forever at the end (Rev. 20; II Pet. 3.7). For now, though, evil is inevitable (I Jn. 5.19). Our job is to share God’s hope with those who don’t have it. By avoiding evil ourselves and helping others escape its influence, we help diminish its influence on the world!
“Outlook” is one’s point of view or general attitude about life. It’s really the way one looks out at the world and sees it. Your outlook may be colored by a lot of things going on in the world right now. It’s easy to let the negative, scary, and discouraging events cloud our view. Are there some proactive measures we can take to improve that picture? Yes!
Invest in someone. Perhaps no one should have had a harder time keeping positive than the apostle Paul. Read all that he suffered and endured (2 Cor. 11:23-33). He repeatedly labored under the threat of danger (1 Cor. 15:30) and death (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6). Yet, he exuded positivity (Phil. 4:13,19; 2 Cor. 9:8). Surely one reason was Paul’s knack for investing in others. He mentored Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2), Titus (Ti. 1:4), and Onesimus (Phile. 10). He spent time nurturing and developing churches like Corinth (1 Cor. 4:14-15) and Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7-8, 11). He was willing to run the risk of being disappointed by the people he invested in (2 Tim. 4:10). For every Demas, there was a Luke (2 Tim. 4:11). There is someone who needs to benefit from your wisdom, maturity, experience, and understanding. Seek them out and help them, for their sake but also for yours.
Clarify your purpose. It is easy to reduce our view of this life to a daily grind we find ourselves working at. We can get lost in our routine, not unlike Martha whose outlook was distorted by hers (Luke 10:41). Being organized and fulfilling our responsibilities are vital, but what can help restore joy and meaning to all of it is regularly remembering why we engage in it all. Marriage, parenting, friendships, occupation, education, daily Christian living, church membership, and personal growth all serve a deeper purpose. Paul’s advice to slaves with earthly masters has broader application: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24).
Reduce media consumption. If you constantly monitor news and current events, you will stay discouraged and fearful. The media has always thrived on reporting on the worst events happening, and it seems there is more and more of it to report. The same kind of thing can happen with too much social media consumption. Polarizing, inflammatory posts and reactions can form a black cloud over you pretty quickly. When Paul urges us to ponder things that cause pleasure and delight (Phil. 4:8), I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of anything like what the media is churning out.
Increase personal interaction. Technology has steadily pushed so many toward isolation and disconnection. The pandemic forced this tendency further. Those monitoring the news cycle du jour (see previous point) retreat into virtual bunkers of suspicion against people of different colors, nationalities, and political persuasions. They become impersonal caricatures, grotesquely exaggerated and larger than life. How do you break through resulting prejudices? The Lord’s way was to be in people’s lives. Engage them. Listen to their stories. Grow empathy. Understand their hurts, fears, and needs. Realize their humanity and remind yourself how profoundly and infinitely God loves each and every one of them (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4). People can be broken, full of dysfunction, and even prickly, but we will brighten our outlook when we get out of our shells and into their lives.
Focus on encouragement. Several times, I heard the late gospel preacher, George Bailey, say, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” I have yet to meet a self-absorbed person who is happy with what they’ve filled themselves with. We’re just not wired that way. Paul’s central focus with the Philippians is on how to think right, their mindset and attitude. He urges placing others above self and looking out for others’ interests (Phil. 2:3-4). It’s amazing how God has wired us. When we find people to uplift and build up, it improves our own outlook. There are countless folks all around you who are struggling with their outlook. Compliment, express appreciation for, and gratefully acknowledge them. It’s a godly thing to do, but a side-effect will be what it does for you!
Look up and look ahead. Though not every time, usually my dampened outlook can be attributed to not only looking too much at this world and myself but also by not looking more at the world to come and God. It’s harder to focus on what’s invisible to the naked eye, but it’s crucial. Paul reminds us, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Spend more time in God’s throne room and His inspired library. Deepen your dependency upon Him. In doing so, focus more intensely on His promise of the world to come (John 14:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff). This life is temporary. Eternity is–well–eternal! Looking up, you’ll see the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, and all-loving God (Psa. 139:1-18). Looking ahead, you’ll see victory (1 John 5:4).
I think we’ll always struggle with dark days and discouragement. Did Paul? Read 2 Corinthians and 2 Timothy. But, he and other Bible writers give us a laundry list of ways to combat these and make them temporary. David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but He could still see divine presence, divine comfort, divine provision, divine blessings, and divine promise (Psa. 23:4-6). So can we! It just may take adjusting the way we look out at the world.
Have you ever been misquoted? Like when you say something and your friend takes that and runs with it, and they turn it into a phrase that you never even said to begin with. No one likes getting words put in their mouth, especially if they’re harmful or a lie. When it comes to Gods word, it’s no different. God has clearly shown us what He has said, and there’s not any need to add to it. Sadly some people have taken Romans 8:28, a beautiful verse, and have changed it to mean something entirely different.
“Everything Happens For a Reason.” You’ve probably heard this phrase used before. This phrase has hurt and angered a lot of people who experience a great tragedy. We often say these words to indicate that God is in charge of all things. Unfortunately, that thought has to be balanced with the knowledge that God created us in his image; therefore, we have free will and the right to choose.
If you’re like me, we won’t always use that freedom correctly. As humans we make bad and harmful decisions, and much of the pain and suffering we experience is a result of a wrong choice. God is in charge of this world, but He has chosen to give us freedom to follow. Often, things happen in our lives because we, or someone else, made a wrong choice.
Romans 8:28 is the verse that people will point to when they use this phrase. Let’s take a moment to dig into this verse and see what is being said. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Is God behind every tragedy? Does God cause people to wreck? Does God cause all the good and bad that happens in the world? God doesn’t make everything happen for a reason because of this: He doesn’t control our every decision. We have free choice to live however we want, and those choices are often done out of greed or selfishness or a lack of care and concern for others.
So what does this verse mean? Paul is trying to make a very important point. God takes the good and the bad, and uses it to accomplish His will. God causes all things to work together for Good. He doesn’t cause everything to happen; He takes what occurs and uses it for good. He can take a bad situation and use it to accomplish His will. Bad things happen and the world is filled with sin, but God can take a seemingly terrible situation and something good can come from it. Israel made many bad decisions, but God still used them to bring about the Messiah. God can take the terrible events in our lives, and use them as a way to grow His kingdom.
This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just kill Satan? In order to adequately answer this question we will need to look at a few different aspects of the Devil himself, as well as the attributes of God.
It’s not hard to find evidence of a world filled with sin, and logically it would make sense for God to just destroy the source of the problem…or would it? Let’s notice a few things about Satan.
Where did he come from? In Genesis 1:31, God sees His creation and it says, “everything was very good.” All of God’s work was perfect. From this we can conclude that Satan started off as good and became evil. While Scripture doesn’t reveal his exact origin, it says enough for us to draw a logical conclusion. For example, 2 Peter 2:4, Matthew 12:24, and 25:41 point to Satan as the leader of a groups of angels that have abandoned heaven. So we have to ask, why was Satan cast out of Heaven?
Based on the previous verses and what we read in Jude 6, the angels were created with free choice. And Peter explains that the angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4). We read the phrase “The Devil and HIS angels” so Satan was most likely the leader and instigator of this rebellion in heaven. Satan tried to rebel against God and failed miserably and will face the consequences of his actions (Revelation 20:1-3). Since Satan cannot win against God, he now wants to get payback by taking his anger out on God’s creation.
So why doesn’t God destroy Satan? Aside from the fact that he’s an angel and killing him would be different from killing a human, we run into another issue.
Even if Satan were destroyed, man would still sin. James 1:14 tells us that as humans we are carried away by our OWN desires, and these desires lead to spiritual death. Satan doesn’t cause everyone to sin, at every location on earth, because he doesn’t have this kind of power. Even if God destroyed Satan, there would still be sin on earth.
There is one other aspect we must look at in order to answer this question; What is the definition of good? Without evil, how can good exist? If God is good, then evil must exist. Without darkness, how can we recognize light? There is balance and perfection in everything.
We are given free will, and if there were no other choice except faith in God, we would not have faith by choice. We would have faith by force. I think about when I was younger and got in a fight with my siblings. Mom would force us to hug each other. That hug was not done out of love, but by mom telling us to get it done. Do you prefer to be loved by choice or by force?
Satan will get what he deserves, but God is defined as a God of love. If God took away our free choice (either to serve Him or sin) then He would be a God of Force. God has the power to destroy Satan, but in doing so we would still be in a fallen world filled with sin. God loves us enough that He wants us to come to Him by choice. This is something each one of us should strive to do.
The Crane Fly is a misidentified and misunderstood creature. It looks like an enormous mosquito, so some will kill it for that reason. I often hear, “Don’t kill those, they eat mosquitos.” The crane fly is either killed for being a “mosquito” or protected based on misinformation about its eating habits. They do not have the anatomy to be predatory, according to Dr. Matthew Bertone with the NCSU Dept. of Entomology. They cannot bite humans, but they also can’t eat other mosquitos.
Some Christian liberties are like crane flies. We may understand that they are harmless in and of themselves (I Cor. 8; 10; Rom. 14.14), but we also understand that others may perceive them as being something they aren’t. To some, our Christian liberties are a mosquito: they see certain practices, lifestyles, clothing choices, consumptions, etc. as being sinful. Still others may see our Christian liberties as being hearty approval of some worldly behaviors, mistaking our enjoyment of this life (I Timothy 4.4) with godless living.
There is a middle ground. Flaunting our religious liberties is counterproductive and sinful (I Corinthians 8). Just because something is a gray area does not mean we should force other Christians to view it in black or white (Romans 14). On the other hand, it is every bit as wrong to condemn a Christian for enjoying a Christian liberty as it is to flaunt that liberty. Paul said, in the context of Christian liberties, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14.4).
So, what is that middle ground? There are, of course, the biblical principles of selflessness, courtesy, deference, discretion, confidence in our position on the matter (Romans 14.5, 20-23), etc. More often than not, though, we’re encouraged to simply avoid any Christian liberties because they may hurt others’ feelings. The middle ground is that we have a faith that is, “our own conviction before God. Happy is the man who does not condemn himself in what he approves” (Rom. 14.22).
Some liberties need not be flaunted but may still be enjoyed privately, if we can demonstrate to ourselves and to God that they do not violate His commands in any way. Some liberties should be kept private so as to avoid causing a brother or sister to stumble (Rom. 14.21). That word for stumble is proskopto, which means, “to strike against something, or to make contact with something in a bruising or violent manner” (BDAG). If what we’re practicing is offensive to others because we’ve made it far more obvious than it should be, we’ve messed up. If we’re doing our best to be discrete and courteous in practicing Christian liberties (which are gifts from God), we’re on the right track.
The best crane flies are the ones we can’t see. No one thinks a mosquito is in the room, and no one thinks a “skeeter-eater” is in the room, either. We can avoid a whole lot of heartburn, headache, and even potential sinning when we keep our Christian liberties private. Or, we could play it safe and, “Not eat meat or drink wine, or do anything by which your brother stumbles.” Whichever path we take, we can never go wrong with the Golden Rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7.12).