When Personal Convictions Get Confused With Biblical Truths
Lately it seems I've had several conversations with friends about the difference between actual Biblical truth and personal convictions. At Christmas my grandmother was saying that growing up she couldn't say "darn", "gosh" or several other words that sounded somewhat similar to a word considered bad. And while I understand that the heart of the idea of setting boundaries in order to keep from crossing a line is birthed out of pure motives, it quickly brings about bondage. I am a recovering potty mouth and anyone who knows me well knows the remnants of that old me are still lingering around, especially when I am mad, especially when someone I love is being threatened or attacked. So I understand setting up boundaries to keep my mouth from spewing all the nastiness it didn't think twice about 15 years ago.
For many years I had the same personal conviction: do not say words that even come close to something I shouldn't say so I don't fail. And I'm sure I pushed it onto the people around me as if it were God's written law. Isn't that the mistake we all make at one time or another? We feel a conviction or God speaks to us so profoundly that it changes our life in a great way so we assume it will do the same for everyone else. Out of love, we feel the need to try and tie a personal conviction around everyone else's neck... And it need not only be language... No, there are countless personal convictions that bring freedom to one, but once hung around the neck of others become like the dreaded millstone tied spoken of in Luke. Growing up in a Christian home with parents who mainly listened to Christian music, I didn't know much of the musical world outside of Amy Grant and Petra until I went to middle school. You can only imagine how my ears enjoyed the different sounds of Social Distortion, The Cure, and Faith No More. And to be honest, God has spoken so deeply to my heart over the years through "secular" songs more often than through "Christian" ones (especially the monotonous stuff normally played on most Christian radio stations). But growing up in the church in the 80's and early 90's, I so often had well meaning people tie their personal convictions about music on me and over the years I developed an unknown sense of shame. When I chose Album 88 (a local college station) over the local Christian station a counterfeit conviction reared its ugly head. As a result, even though I so rarely heard a song I liked, my programmed 1 & 2 stations in my car were always the Christian stations. And I'm not gonna lie, when I would want to skip them and go to another station this nasty feeling would always reappear. Never mind the fact I had a Prayer Chain or The Choir cassette in the deck (that's right, cassette...), I still had this sense of wrongness that came over me. Like I was choosing something over God, when in fact I just am not a fan of Sandy Patty or The Gaithers. Then one day a couple years ago, I was driving my Dad's truck and even though I didn't want to, I reached for that programmed station 1 because it was "Christian" music. But this time I felt God speak to my heart that it was not His conviction I was feeling but rather condemnation over something He never intended. And like that I felt His freedom wash over me. And you know what happened? I found myself more often going to the Christian stations and discovering there's now more Crowder and Tomlin on it than before and I can enjoy it. When the legalism of it was gone, I was free to enjoy it. I read the story of a woman once who was literally held bondage by this same thing. Growing up she had been taught you can only listen to Christian music to an unhealthy extent. Then as an adult, she was so bound by this lie, she found herself unable to even shop because all stores play is "secular" music. She would have to leave the store in a panic because the false guilt that overwhelmed her. Now don't get me wrong, like I said I get the heart behind such thinking and as a nanny, with my kids I try and play obviously Christ centered music (unless it's a cold, rainy day- then for some weird reason I crave French music), but I also dance with my girls to Call Me Maybe on repeat. I pray and strive to instill in them that love for Christ flows freely from us because He is in us. It's not about what we do but who we are. One of my personal convictions I've written about in the past is being very careful about what I watch. I am a visual person and learned years ago if I am going to live a life of purity, for me that means primarily sticking to G & PG rated movies, especially when the "13" & "R" are given as a result of sexual content or language. And sadly to say I remember trying to impose this conviction on others as if it were the Gospel truth and even sadder to say I would judge those who didn't have my same conviction. Then I started working with a pastor and friend who I admire and He could watch anything and did so that he could know the culture of his students. And the way his mind is wired, he doesn't carry it with him like I do. And while I can't even imagine that to be true, knowing him and seeing the life of integrity he leads I know it's true. So while I still have a conviction of what I watch, I am so aware that it is a personal conviction and trust the Holy Spirit to lead His people in their own convictions. I once heard a pastor say so many people trust the Holy Spirit to lead people to salvation, but then when it comes to discipleship feel like they have to take over (that's a paraphrase and I'm sure he said it way better). I pray that I always am sensitive the convictions of God, and that my heart is beating with His so closely I know the difference between when He is speaking to me personally and when it is a truth for all...