I have lately been contemplating the concept of adiaphora. Not only because it is fun to say, but because many of the things we spend a lot of our time thinking about in the Church oftentimes fall into the category of adiaphora.
In general for Christians, adiaphora means “matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless permissible or allowed in the church.”
Things like discussions of the floor covering in the sanctuary or the color of the paint on the walls of the fellowship hall, for example, are not essential to faith, but do constitute a large part of our time sometimes. Adiaphora.
Activities such as water balloon tosses at the church picnic or eating German potato salad at the church potluck are, for instance, are neither good nor bad to our faith, but do help us to have fun and nourish our bodies. Adiaphora.
St. Paul was asked about adiaphora by the Corinthian Christians when it came to whether or not they should eat food sacrificed to idols. He said in response:
… food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. —1 Corinthians 8:8–9
Two things come to mind for me when I consider all of this. First of all, we need to spend less time in our church worrying about things that are essentially adiaphora and more time on matters that ARE essential to faith: baptism, evangelism, Holy Communion, preaching the Word, Bible study and prayer.
Secondly, even if something we are doing or saying is not necessarily against our beliefs as Christians, we still need to be aware of how we go about these things. Do not become obsessed by your model train collection is such a way that it prevents you from worshiping and spending time in church, for example. We still need to serve as models of Christ even in “the things that don’t really matter.” How you approach all things in life is still a witness to others of your faith.
God is still at work even in the adiaphora.