Last week I challenged us to make the main thing the main focus of our conversation and to not allow “adiaphora” to divide us. My editors encouraged me to find a different word, despite adiaphora being the very best word, because we don’t use it anymore. I was a bit shocked that it’s not even in my most often used online dictionary! I did, however, find it on a Bible site:
Abstract – Most lay Christians probably have never heard of the concept adiaphora (plural) or adiaphoron (singular). Adiaphora, a word borrowed from the Greek, means “things that are indifferent.” It has its origin among the Greek Stoic philosophers (4th Century BC) who first used the concept to indicate a given act was neither a virtue nor a vice. The Greek word diaphoron means “difference,” but when the letter alpha (a) is prefixed to diaphoron, the word means “indifferent.” Hence, in regard to given theological or ecclesiastical beliefs or practices, adiaphora refer to beliefs or practices that are biblically indifferent, that is, neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. Adiaphora are those matters that Christians in their God-given liberty are free to do or not to do.Alvin J. Schmidt
I need to thank a pastor from my youth, who was rather youthful himself, for using that word so often in my hearing. Pastor Nathan was instrumental in challenging my thinking when it came to dividing tradition or habits from biblical truths.
It’s NOT wrong to form convictions. It’s not wrong to have those convictions produce habits that allow us to walk in godly patterns. Both the convictions and the habits may be based on application of biblical principles. But principles are not precepts. And when we have been believers for a long time, especially if we’ve been multi-generational believers or grown up in a strong tradition, it’s easy for us to start to think of our principles as precepts.
It’s not a huge leap from there to judging others or even to creating roadblocks to faith!! I personally struggle in both directions, despite what I KNOW. I have strong personal convictions that I know to be adiaphora. Yes, for me they have a principled basis, but in the absolute they are neither commanded nor forbidden, yet I struggle to watch believers who have freedom. On the other hand, as a watch people get “religious” about their diets or about complying with various health recommendations; it’s equally as easy for me to be pridefully comendemning. All of those principled but non-spelled-out issues are adiaphora when it comes to unity in the Church. I’m all for controlling our children, but we don’t need to try to control each other beyond the precepts of scripture. Amen?!?!
14 Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2 For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3 Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.
5 In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. 6 Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7 For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8 If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead.
10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”
12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.
14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.20 Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. 22 You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. 23 But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinningRomans 14 (New Living Translation)