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Developing Discernment

Moral gray areas have always existed for believers (see Rom. 14:1–23). New technology and modern social issues certainly provide unique manifestations of gray areas, but Christians have always needed to exercise wisdom and discernment in myriads of life situations.

A gray area . . . is any matter that is not clearly commanded, prohibited, or permitted in Scripture.
Whenever you aren’t sure if a particular action is sinful, ask yourself these questions before proceeding:

1. Is the Holy Spirit convicting me that this is wrong? (Rom. 14:23; James 4:17).
2. Is this action causing a brother or sister to stumble? (Rom. 14:20; 1 Cor. 8:9–13).
3. Is this action harmful rather than beneficial to my faith? (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23).
4. Is this action mastering or controlling me? (1 Cor. 6:12; 9:27).
5. Is this action causing me to be disobedient to someone whom God has put in authority over me? (Eph. 6:1; Heb. 13:17)
6. Am I judging others who don’t agree with me in this gray area? (Matt. 7:1–5; Rom. 14:13).

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, it’s likely this behavior is sinful or at least unwise. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of all the Bible says about gray areas—and there are countless caveats we could add (e.g., how to tell the difference between Spirit-led conviction and legalistic guilt-tripping, how to respond to abusive authority)—but this list serves as a starting point.

God wants us to obey his commands in the black and white areas, and to seek his wisdom in the gray areas.