One of the things I’m noticing as I grow older is a greater interest in how I behave and act as a Christian in regards to a specific area in life – yet, areas that I wouldn’t have thought of as much when I was younger. I think about, What kinds of movies should I be watching? Should I be watching movies at all? Who should I hang out with? How much time should I spend with non-Christians? How should I spend evenings when I’m tired? and so on.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I have a feeling I’m not. I think there’s a good majority of Christians who are seeking to live more mature lives of faith who are working through how they approach these things.
The thing is, we would love to have black and white answers. Sadly, we’re not always going to get that.
I remember being interested in a girl during a few years in Bible college. I had a fairly good understanding in my mind and heart that our relationship was more about “exchanging flirty actions and words” than it was a godly connection. I would constantly talk with my pastor about the situation, hoping he would either say plainly “Date her,” or “Don’t date her.” That’s all I wanted! But every conversation would end with him saying, “Pray about it, and walk in the Spirit.” That answer always annoyed me because it didn’t satisfy my immediate struggle. I just wanted to be released from my indecision. But, I didn’t get that.
“Pray about it, and walk in the Spirit.” Looking back now, I totally get it – for Paul himself talks about this in Galatians 5:16. He writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Out of the list of questions at the beginning, let’s take the simple How should I spend my evenings when I’m tired? This is a popular one. If you asked this to the world, you’d get a plethora of answers – some being “Watch some Netflix, have a beer, read, take a bath, smoke some pot, play some video games, go for a walk,” and so on. But what about the Christian response? How should a Christian spend their evenings when they’re tired?
The reality of living as an authentic Christian means that your life will inevitably look different than the world. This doesn’t mean a Christian will always do, say, or think the complete opposite thing as an unbeliever. The idea of living a faithful Christian life that contrasts that of an unbeliever is this: a Christian is in the habit of joyfully denying their fleshly wants, so as to love God and love others more effectively.
As we can see, the root of the question depends on the why of what we’re doing – not on the what. This is part of walking by the Spirit – taking intentional steps that are in line with God’s will for our lives. So, as much as I, as a Christian, would love to know exactly how I should spend my evenings when I’m tired, the reality is that He hasn’t given me a list of “dos and don’ts” for that. Instead, He’s given me His Spirit, His Word, and His Church. By going to those three things, I’m sure I’ll know how to best spend my evening.
And obviously this applies to every area of life. There will be numerous situations in our lives when we’ll be aching for a “black and white” answer, yet will find none. What God desires of His children is that we go to His Spirit, His Word, and His Church to seek out the best decisions.
If you (and I) do this, we’ll find that our decisions will involve denying our fleshly wants, and behaving in such a way that shows our love for God and others.