As Christians, we often have difficulties in regards to particular matters and whether they are sin or not. There are many things that most will admit present difficulties, but the Bible may not spell out whether it is to be considered sin or no. When it comes to these matters, there are some who approach some matters of sin not explicitly revealed in the Scriptures as if it were explicitly revealed in the Scriptures, and there are others who approach matters of sin not explicitly revealed in the Scriptures as somehow less sin or matters concerning which we have no right to condemn as sin.
What should we do when it comes to matters that God has not specifically justified or condemned? We get an indication of God’s intention for us in Galatians 5:16-24:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
If we fall into the trap of thinking of such things in terms of strict “legalism,” attempting to establish as law that it is definitively wrong or that it cannot be condemned, misses Paul’s point entirely. Paul’s point is evident in verse 24: Christians have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. “Drawing lines” is entirely against the point here.
Human beings like lines. Lines mean that it can be known just how far one can go before getting in trouble. How often do human beings “ride the line”, so to speak, in their actions and behaviors? Everyone knows that there could be circumstances beyond our control (or within our control) that will lead us to cross the line, but that still does not make us think that we should stop doing so. In such circumstances, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the failure.
As long as we look at these matters in strict terms of line drawing we will not get to that which Paul intends. As Christians we are called upon to make judgments, and to make righteous judgments based upon the Scriptures (cf. Hebrews 5:14). Paul provides a very clear means by which we can ascertain what is right from what is wrong: the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
If something correlates to “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, [or] orgies,” we are to avoid them. We have crucified these desires with Christ.
If something manifests “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” then it is well and good for us to do them. We are to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Yes, dancing is not mentioned as sinful in the Scriptures. But when you consider what goes on in dancing, and you see on one side that there is “impurity” and “sensuality”, and on the other side you see “goodness” and “self-control”, on which side does dancing, particularly the young adult kind, fall? It is “like” sensuality, and therefore is just as much a work of the flesh as sensuality or sexual immorality.
“But you’re adding to the Scriptures!” No, we are not. We are making righteous judgment based upon the information provided in the Scriptures. We know well enough what correlates with what. We know perfectly well that while the fruit of the Spirit is a complete list, the works of the flesh are left open– the last one is “things like these,” which shows that God has not revealed specifically every little thing that is sinful.
Gambling is another matter not mentioned in the Scriptures specifically. We see on one side “idolatry” (covetousness so defined in Colossians 3:5) and “rivalries” and “dissensions”, and on the other side “peace” and “goodness” and “self-control”. Honestly– to which does gambling concord? Is the impulse behind gambling holy or carnal? We all know what the answer really is, and yet there is always this impulse to justify our own behavior or the behavior we see in others. This can even work with drinking, a matter that is often contentious. While we understand that in the ancient world there were few options beyond wine if one wanted to have a healthy liquid, we do not have that problem today. Today, which is “drinking” more like? “Drunkenness” or “peace…self-control”? If you never drink, you can never get drunk!
Why is it that we want to argue and debate the minutiae of these issues? Because people want to do these things. But if we have crucified the flesh with its passions, why do we seek to justify some of the things the flesh wants to do? What “holy” impulse compels school dances? What godly influence leads to one gambling? What holiness and righteousness can come from drinking?
None, none, and none.
Those who are in Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions. Those in the world constantly draw and re-draw lines to justify their behavior.
What will we do?