Now the visible deals with anything we can witness firsthand, primarily actions and words. We often find applying discernment to these easier because they are specific and obvious.
But therein a danger exists, because we often make a snap decision as a result, without considering the whole context. Is an action truly wrong—or only wrong for you or for this specific time? Are the words offered truly upbuilding to another—or are they empty platitudes that only soothe the conscience of the speaker?
So how do you apply discernment to visible actions?
First ask, “What does the Bible say about this?” Philippians 4:8, already reviewed in this study, provides a great shorthand tool: Does the action conform to reality, show respect, conform to God and His word, cause another to sin, move the heart toward love, add to a good reputation, go over and above what is expected, bring praise to God? But remember there is much more to Scripture than this! On more complicated issues also delve into what the whole Bible says, both specific commands as well as how Scripture portrays people who act that way.
Then ask, “Is an action truly wrong—or just wrong for me, due to maturity or personal limitations?” Very little in this world is intrinsically evil or good. Rather, much of the rightness or wrongness of an action has to do with the specific circumstances. Is this the right thing done by the right person at the right time and at the right place in the right way for the right reason? Many times, most disputes have less to do with what is being done and more with who, when, where, why, and how something is done.
Finally, ask, “Does this action display love for God and man, and if so, how?” This is the ultimate measure of any action, for as Jesus said, in those two commandments the whole of Scripture is summed up. So if an action truly conforms to these two, then it is right, fulfilling the Law of the universe. If it doesn’t, then no matter how good it may seem, it is still wrong in some way.