Cartoons often depict our conscience as a tiny angel standing on one shoulder, telling you to do good, and a miniature devil standing on the other, urging you to do the opposite. This cartoon image is right in one respect. The voice of our conscience can often feel like a whisper or a tug.
What is more, in verses 13–23, Paul shows that the conscience of some people may react sensitively to things that others find acceptable. He refers to these choices, and the effect they have on others, as a “stumbling block or obstacle” (v. 13). What should we do if our conscience has reservations? Or what if someone else believes our practice is wrong? The loving and biblical response, in either case, is sensitivity. For the person whose conscience is sensitive, the best course of action is to refrain from that action (v. 14). On the other hand, the one whose conscience is free needs to take care “not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (v. 13). When you make a choice to limit your freedom in order to help another, your actions are “pleasing to God” (v. 18).
It is important to note that Paul is not talking about matters where Scripture has given a clear command or principle. He also doesn’t mean that the tastes of others should automatically dictate our own. When you have a choice to make that is not clearly dictated or regulated by Scripture and is not affecting those around you, you are free to keep matters “between yourself and God” (v. 22).
>> Our actions won’t always be guided by a comprehensive list of dos and don’ts. But whatever we do, Paul urges us to consider the peace and building up of our brothers and sisters in Christ. What are some choices you make which might differ from those of other believers? What is your responsibility toward those who disagree with you?
Search our hearts, Father. Show us any areas where we are not obeying you and redirect us when our consciences falter. Prepare us to surrender our freedoms for the sake of others.