One morning a boy was dressing for school. He picked up a shirt that was lying around and asked his mother, “Mom, is this shirt dirty?” Without even looking at the shirt, the mother answered, “Yes, it’s dirty; put on a clean one.” The boy said, “But you didn’t even look at the shirt.” To that, the mother replied, “If you have to ask, it’s dirty.”
While some would consider the mother’s standard as extreme, I’d say her little boy was never caught out in public wearing a dirty shirt! I’d also say that we Christians could do a lot worse than apply her high standard to our everyday conduct. “Is what I’m about to do here a sin?” “If you have to ask, it’s dirty.”
Officially, the New Testament’s standard for Christians goes like this: “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Putting it another way: “Let each person be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). The teaching isn’t hard to understand. If you aren’t fully convinced in your own mind that what you are considering doing isn’t sin, you shouldn’t do it. Going back to my illustration, it’s dirty to you.
Several years ago, our whole family went on vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Dollywood is a popular theme park in that area, and at some point Tonya’s mother, Jessie, met a couple who gave her two pre-paid passes to the park. The couple had purchased the passes and planned to use them, but their plans had changed and they offered them to Jessie as a free gift. The only problem was the fact that the passes clearly stated that only the purchaser could use them.
Since our two boys were still young at the time, Jessie offered the passes to me and Tonya. She figured that we could use them to take the boys to Dollywood for half price. I didn’t feel right about accepting the offer, though, because I knew that none of us had purchased those two passes. So, I told Tonya, “No, we’re not doing that.”
Jessie, on the other hand, who is a devout Christian herself, took a different view of the situation. She thought that her running into that couple by happenstance was the Lord’s way of blessing her with those passes, and she wasn’t about to turn down the Lord’s blessing. That’s why it didn’t surprise me when she loaded up Tonya’s dad, Charles, the next morning and headed off for a day at Dollywood. To this day, I don’t think she’s ever felt the slightest twinge of guilt or conviction over using those passes.
My guess is that some people who read this post will agree with Jessie’s assessment of that situation. Then again, some of you will agree with mine. However you feel about it, the point I’m trying to get across is that life is filled with these gray zones, areas where Christians might not agree on what is sin and what isn’t sin. Jessie could use those passes in faith and be fully convinced in her own mind that what she was doing wasn’t sin, but I couldn’t. As for which one of us was truly in the right, I’ll let the Lord sort that out in eternity. Like that mother in my opening illustration, I took the cautious approach and called the shirt (the passes) dirty. All I know is, I slept fine after turning them down. Would I have slept so good had I used them? I guess I’ll never know, at least in this life. By the way, Tonya and the boys have been to Dollywood several times for school trips. I myself still haven’t seen the inside of the place.