One particular theme I feel we often try to dance around is that of “permissibility”. Am I allowed to listen to non-Christian music? Am I allowed to swear? Am I allowed to dress this way or that? Am I allowed to go to this place or another? Does the Bible allow me to do… and we follow it by a vast number of things. Where is the line drawn? Or, in other words, how far can I go and still be in the “okay” zone?
That’s the question we’re dealing with in this post, Are we allowed to speak like this? Are we allowed to hate? Are we allowed to wish evil on others when in difficult circumstances?
Whenever I think of what’s allowed or not, what’s permissible or not, two of the first passages that come to my mind are from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The first is,
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.
– 1 Corinthians 10:23 NLT
And the second is like it but slightly different,
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
– 1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT
In both passages I find that Paul is concerned with two problems — you may have already noticed these if you read the two verses in their context — sin that is internal and sin that is external. Sin that begins in my heart and flows out to affect others, such as sexual immorality and slandering, and sin that begins outside of me yet puts my integrity in danger, such as drunkenness, being cheated, being wronged, and being tempted.
[Edit (29.05.2017): To further explain my point here, I see two kinds of sin that Paul discusses. The kind that I commit which may become a stumbling block for others and the kind that others commit which provoke me to compromise or let my guard down]
Paul mentions three pointers in these two passages:
1. Not everything is good for me
2. Not everything is beneficial for others
3. I must not become a slave to anything
If only Paul had given us a key to understand what he means by those. Perhaps he has. Within the same passages, a little more reading unveils the mystery, if there ever was one.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble…
– 1 Corinthians 10:31-32 NIV
That, I think, gives us a clue to the first and second pointers of Paul; but what about the third? Well,
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God…
– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Before I tie this together and give my final answer, I want to share two more passages:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
– Hebrews 4:14-16 NASB
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
– Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB
To understand Paul’s three pointers, we need only to look at Christ. Consider this whenever you do or are about to do something;
- How does this make me more like Christ?
- How will this encourage others to want to be more like Christ?
- Since I have been bought with a price, the blood of Christ, I have but one Master. I cannot, and should not, serve any other than Him.
So, are we allowed to speak of hate and wish evil on others? If the question were simply of permissibility then sure. However, is it Godly? Absolutely not! Is it Christ-like? Not even close.