As those seeking to live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Christians should always consider how their actions will affect their witness to a watching world.
Speaking of his own evangelistic ministry, Paul wrote:
Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33)
Paul was far more concerned with seeing sinners embrace Christ than he was with the exercise of his liberty. Thus he was willing to set aside his freedom for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Whether or not you are aware of it, your behavior—both what you do as well as what you don’t do—affects your witness for Christ. It is an issue of testimony: What does your life say about God to the friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, or even strangers who might be watching you?
That’s the point Paul makes in Romans 14:16-18:
Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
The operative statement there is “approved by men.” Paul’s not talking about being a man-pleaser—he’s talking about the positive commendation of your lifestyle by the people who are watching.
You’ve probably known people who call themselves Christians and proclaim their love for the Lord, but have lifestyles that are very similar to the world. Believers who routinely live on the edges of their liberty make it difficult to differentiate themselves from the world. They have a hard time communicating the value and power of the gospel to people who see no clear difference in how they live their lives.
Believers who never abuse their freedom live out the most distinct, powerful testimonies of God’s life-transforming power. The self-imposed restrictions in your life—informed by biblical principles—visually depict the ongoing work of Christ in your heart to a world that is constantly watching, even when you least suspect it.
Your loudest, clearest testimony is rarely the words you say—people are far more likely to see how you live and draw conclusions about the value and reality of your faith based on your lifestyle. The unsaved world is paying attention, and we need to strive to be manifestly different from our sinful culture. For the sake of the gospel, we need to stand apart from the world while we’re living in it.
So when we’re faced with a decision in an area of life that Scripture doesn’t specifically speak to, we need to ask, Will this activity adorn the gospel or tarnish it?
Your testimony either tells the truth about God, or it tells a lie. The choices you make in the gray areas should reflect your concern not to bring offense to God’s reputation but to bring Him praise instead.