Vol.XI No.VII Pg.2
September 1974

Respecting Convictions

Robert F. Turner

Many years ago I sought to correct what I believed to be a fault in a brothers life, and he responded: "I do not live with your conscience, but with my own." In effect he was saying I should respect his convictions. In this case, I did respect his convictions; i.e., I believed him to have honest convictions — to be acting in good conscience. Because I respected his convictions, I did not expect him to change his conduct because I felt he was wrong. It was my hope that he would learn Gods will more perfectly and, with this changed conviction, he would make the change in life which honesty demanded.

Conviction" is not truth. It is "a strong persuasion or belief". The transitive verb "convince" is: "to bring ... to belief beyond doubt". But this is wholly subjective — it refers to what the person believes, and has no bearing whatsoever — on what God has said about the matter. We could respect one anothers convictions, and both of us be in error. Divine truth is expressed in Gods word (JOH.17:17) and must be approached objectively. This external source of truth is not altered by what man believes about it.

Sometimes folk claim to have "convictions" to escape the responsibilities of examination and Bible study. They ask you to "respect their convictions" — meaning, cease to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, (2 TIM.4:2). They may even expect you to act contrary to your own convictions "lest they be offended," or, they become angry because you too have convictions, and must act accordingly, even while you respect their convictions.

There are those who deal in "vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law: understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." Paul warned Timothy about such, saying that such evidenced neither pure heart, good conscience, nor sincere faith (1 TIM. 1:3-7). There was no reason to "respect their convictions" nor to believe they had honest convictions. From such turn away.

In the final analysis, respecting ones convictions means respecting the man, treating him as a man of integrity, an honest man, of good conscience. When a man evinces a desire to know truth and serve God; when he welcomes questions and assistance in Bible study, and makes Gods word-not "feelings" or popularity — his standard; when he alters his practice in keeping with his growing knowledge; we have reason to respect him.

It is a pleasure to study with such a man, and with a little effort, we might learn something from him.