When it comes to questions of love and wisdom, it can be difficult to know what to do. What should we do when it comes to the issues that many people disagree about? Actions or habits that are not explicitly condemned or condoned in Scripture are difficult to think through (e.g. drinking, smoking, or things like yoga).
Scripture provides a way through such difficult issues with one overarching purpose—love for God and each other. Love is the most basic expression of the Christian’s faith. At the end of the day, if what a person is doing is not in line with love and the God who is love, then it is sin. We are called to let love drive our decisions.
After discussing Christian liberty, Paul writes the great “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1–3)
Even with questions of wisdom, there is still a governing principle or goal:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:5)
First, Christians need to realize that men and women are primarily loving beings. Christ himself states that the greatest commandments that summarize God’s will for our lives are the commands to love God, our neighbor, and self (Matt. 22). This is our identity. We act and treat things according to what we love the most. If we love God, our faculties (our minds and affections) should follow that love wherever it is aimed. The same is true of our neighbors and ourselves.
Yet, it is easy for us to see everything in terms of personal rights and how we feel about ourselves. When we look at issues of wisdom and Christian liberty, we often consider the practice in terms of the thinking “Is this good for me?” or “Is this thing going to help promote my image in the eyes of others?” We often look at personal rights as things we cannot live without. If it is convenient, we abstain. If it is about how good something makes us feel, we wrongly believe there is no harm in acting in certain ways.
Second, we must understand that we shape our lives according to what we believe to be our highest good. Keeping the order of God, others, and self straight in our minds makes all the difference. If we place ourselves at the center, we will abuse God’s good gifts regardless of whether or not we hurt others.
Freedom, according to Paul, is not an end in itself. Rather, the building up of those around us is the true goal. The love of God and others must be at the center of wisdom and liberty to pass Paul’s test (1 Cor. 8: 11–13). Love affects everything. Love directs our whole existence, the question is towards whom. As Ashley Null once said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” The question, then, is not whether we will let love guide us but towards what end will it be pointed, ourselves or others. Our actions and minds follow whatever the heart is aimed at.
Therefore, we need to ask what is the aim or goal of our actions. To whom are we primarily directing them? What purpose, function, or vision of life is being expressed when we do something? Does this action promote the good of others and their betterment to the glory of God? If we find ourselves at the center of the above order, it’s a good bet that the action is not loving, and therefore not wise.