How do I decide what is acceptable? How do you deal with what you don't know?


Hello Brother Hamilton,

I have two questions:

As I grow as a Christian and as a musician, I'm having a hard time deciding what places are acceptable to visit to listen to music or play at. It seems like alcohol is served everywhere, now even at classical orchestra concerts during intermission. How do I decide what's acceptable to God? There are places that serve alcohol like concert venues, performing arts halls, jazz clubs and restaurants where the main draw is music or food and not necessarily alcohol, are those places acceptable?

Also, how does a Christian deal with what he doesn't know? As I learn more and more I get more concerned about the things I don't know. Is it a reasonable concern to be worried about what I don't know or should I just keep studying and learning and not worry about it?

Thanks so much. I appreciate your work more than I can tell you.


The question you ought to ask is what is the purpose of the establishment?

I like to eat at restaurants once in a while. Many of these places serve alcohol. But can I eat there without drunkards being around me? Can I enjoy myself without feeling pressured to buy an alcoholic drink? Is the purpose of the establish to serve food or is it to push liquor? In other words, by my going to this particular place will someone assume that I consume liquor or that I think that drinking alcohol is not a problem? Because of this, I don't go to bars, but I've been to restaurants where alcohol is offered and I politely turn it down.

I've done the same thing for office parties. If the invitation features the serving of alcohol, I decline. If it is for other purposes and alcohol happens to be offered, I turn down the drinks.

In this way I show no support for drunkenness (I Peter 4:1-3), directly or indirectly.

This goes for other things as well. I will go to a museum, but I don't go into sections that may have nude paintings or sculptures.

There is an interesting thing about God's laws. "For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:9-10). You can look at the law as a whole bunch of don't do this and don't do that. Or you can realize that all the rules are application of one greater law: Love your fellow man. To love someone is to do him no harm. Therefore, you don't commit adultery because that harms another person's marriage. You don't commit fornication because that person will one day be another person's husband or wife. You don't lie because that hurts other people. It may take you a while to see all the subtle applications, but if you keep the main rule in mind, the rest naturally follows.

Jesus actually says there is one rule even greater than love your neighbor. ""Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him," 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40). Everything in God's laws are derivatives of just two laws.

Are there things I still don't know? Of course. God is so immense and subtle that I will spend a lifetime of learning and feel like I've barely begun. But that is fine. I do what I can with what I know. If I do something wrong, then I'll learn from my mistakes. "Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge" (Proverbs 19:25). "Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool" (Proverbs 17:10). God isn't asking for perfection. He is wanting you to do your best. "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:9-10).