I love fried chicken! I love it so much I even pulled a drumstick out of a KFC box Sunday morning on stage and ate it in front of my church. I didn’t do it to make them hungry (though that was a nice side effect) or to get kickbacks from KFC (though that may have been smart) but rather to illustrate a principle. Let me explain.
There is a difference between a Biblical absolute and a conviction. A Biblical absolute is a clear command given in Scripture that applies to all of us. A conviction, however, is a guideline that one conducts their life by that is not an absolute in Scripture. It may be a conviction due their upbringing and perhaps even due to principles they see within Scripture. Absolutes are the same for all of us. Convictions are not. I may have personal convictions that you don’t share and you most likely have some convictions that I don’t live by. That’s OK.
In Romans 14, Paul gives us some teaching considering convictions. One of these teaching is that we are not to judge each other based on differing convictions. The second teaching is that we should never allow these differences of convictions to be used as a stumbling block to each other. Let me offer the illustration I used Sunday (you just don’t have to watch me eat chicken as I give it).
Let’s say that there is a family in your church who loves fried chicken. I mean they love it so much that they have developed a tradition in their home that they call Fried chicken Friday. Each Friday night they enjoy fried chicken for dinner as a family. In fact, they live for Fried Chicken Friday. They count down the days during the week until Friday and then when Friday arrives they count down the hours until dinner. After all, there is no absolute in Scripture against eating fried chicken. They are free to eat fried chicken and they love it.
Now let’s say that there is another family in your church who does not eat friend chicken. They don’t avoid fried chicken because they simply don’t like it; they avoid it because they have a deep conviction against eating fried chicken. It goes against their conscience. This is because they grew up in a very health conscience home that did not eat anything that was fried. Not only that, they look at principles in Scripture that say that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we should not harm our bodies. To them, eating fried food is harmful for the body so, though there is no Biblical absolute against it, they have a conviction against eating fried chicken.
Let me ask you a question. Which of these two families is more spiritual, the one who eats fried chicken or the one who has a conviction against eating fried chicken? The answer is neither of them. Spirituality is not based on our adherence to an outward list of “do’s” and don’ts.” As a result, we should not judge each other based on these differing convictions. But neither should we harm each other in regards to them either. Let me continue the illustration.
Let’s say that the first family (the ones that love fried chicken) have invited the second family (the ones who have a conviction against fried chicken) over for dinner but the only night they can come over is Friday night. WAIT! That’s Fried Chicken Friday! What should the first family do? They have two basic options.
First, they could say, “Listen, we are free as Christians to eat fried chicken and Friday is Fried Chicken Friday at our home so we are having fried chicken anyway.” The result of this option is that the second family will be put in a very awkward situation where they must either refuse to eat what is served them or eat it even though it goes against their conscience.
Second, they could say, “Listen, Friday is Fried Chicken Friday and we are free to eat fried chicken. However, we don’t want our freedom to eat fried chicken to in any way be a stumbling block to this other family who has a conviction against fried chicken so we are going to choose to bypass Friday Fried Chicken this week and eat something far less tasty instead (like meatloaf - YUCK!).”
Let me ask you another question, “With of those two options would show the most love?” It is obvious, isn’t it? It would be option #2. That’s what Paul teaches us in Galatians 5:13. Yes we are free but are freedom is never a freedom to injure others. It is a freedom that centers on loving and serving others.
There are a lot of Christians and a lot of churches who “bite and devour” (words found in Galatians 5:15) each other because they put their own freedom above love for others. Our freedom is a wonderful thing. But our love for each other is even greater.
With that said, if you are ever having Fried Chicken Friday at your house, feel free to invite me over! I love being free when it comes to fried chicken.