“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)
I’ve got lots of opinions, not gonna lie about that. You probably do too, right? I will even dare to go one step further by assuming that your opinions and my opinions are not perfectly in synch — agreed? It’s alright; I’ve been told that on more than one occasion ….
Difference of opinions among people are more numerous than grains of sand in the ocean. Disputable matters in the church are no exception either.
Freedoms and convictions are not the same in every heart. Unfortunately, these areas of contention can cause conflict in our hearts, relationships, and churches or communities of faith if we allow them to …
My daughter and I were thrown into just such a situation not so long ago that caused some harm and confusion. The perception and convictions of each other was deeply expressed, and the ourcome and consequences were anything but peaceful ….
Much of it was and is a misunderstanding of scripture, but the reaction was layered in judgment and accusation mainly because of a belief in false doctrine …
I have agonized and prayed over how to respond in a way that would honor God. My daughter and I talked through flesh-led responses: (anger, justifications, ddefensivness, etc), versus Spirit-led responses: (humility, grace, love, forgiveness), and in all honesty, we also wrestled with justifiably inflamed feelings of hurt feelings, both hers and mine ….
Paul spoke of these types of in-the-church tensions in the letter he penned to the believers in Rome. He explained that the freedoms we have in Christ are to be handled responsibly, in love, and that we are to be careful to not allow our freedoms to cause a person of a weaker faith or different convictions to possibly stumble ….
Let me be clear here; though I have strong convictions and beliefs on doctrines, this is not a conversation about biblical activities that are clearly forbidden or addressed. Nor is this specifically about the differences in doctrines. Truth is truth. But this is about creating our own rules and expectations of how other believers should or should not behave, think, or believe. That’s right — hunker down because we’re about to go there ….
Romans 14 addresses this head on:
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One personʼs faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone elseʼs servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14:1-4).
Even when others wound us with harsh words, accusations, and differing expectations, God can and will tenderly teach and heal hearts that are intent to walk in His ways. Even in the tension of our recent challenge of words with my daughter, and even more recently with others, I still have looked for the lesson I believe to be found in God’s Word ….
Paul’s writings to believers in Rome have lead me to consider a few heart directives:
Don’t sidestep, stiff-arm, alienate or reject that person. In a nutshell: don’t argue! (v.1).
Followers of Christ have different opinions. When a believer has differing opinions and convictions, I am to be concerned with my own convictions of faith, not fuss or quarrel about theirs! (v. 1).
I should act according to my conscience because I am accountable to Christ alone (v. 12). And when another believer has different convictions, I am not to judge them! (v. 4, 13)
Paul went on to instruct the Roman believers in this chapter with this:
“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before Godʼs judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another ….
Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”(vs.10-14)
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (vs. 17-19)
These Scriptures also provoke me to examine my own heart; leading me to ponder and ask myself:
“Am I determined not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of another believer?”
“Am I making every effort to do what leads to peace — or just trying to do and say what I think is right to express my point ?”
“Am I edifying another’s faith or eradicating it?”
“Am I conveying God’s Word or my words?”
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, or even questionable; then I am in violation of God’s biblical standard, and I need to humbly get with Him on the issue. Warm and fuzzy, right?
Anyone that prophesies, teahes, or speaks for God speaks unto others to “edify, exhort, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Very truthfully, I believe if I am not doing one of these three, then I am NOT truly speaking for God; I am giving my own opinion or my own personal emotional judgment ….
I am not going to water it down for you. I am going to break it down. Truth is truth and Word is Word. Following Christ isn’t always easy. Seldom is the case. However, it is always the best and always what brings Him the glory that He deserves. And isn’t that what it all should be about anyway?
The Bible calls us to unity, love, and peace in Christ as a body of believers — even when we differ in opinions or don’t see eye to eye. When all is said and done; it honors God when we make every effort to love well and love first, and align our hearts and minds with the teachings of His Word …
On a sidenote: though this passage is speaking more specifically concerning what is clean or unclean, acceptable or unacceptable concerning food, holy days and the like, I believe more specifically it is really conferring a message about the strong and the weak. About what is acceptable concerning our attitudes and the methods in which we show or express our faith. Just as some have shamed me for worshipping on a Sunday instead of a Saturday, or others have spoken of what is acceptable to some and not others; the bottom line is revealed in the verse that states: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” (v.19).
And one way to achieve that is to remember the scripture verse found in (Proverbs 15:1), “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
We can also read in (1 Corinthians 10:23), “I have the right to do anything, you say — but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything — but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
When we are more driven to prove our point by pushing our opinion, though it be necessary, beneficial or even biblically correct, it may not be constructive if we speak too boldly, or too harshly, and especially to one weaker or less mature in the faith; though our intentions or motives may be pure, we can bruise the spirit of that which we are trying to win. It is written in (Galations 5:6), that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” …..
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galations 6:9-10).
I challenge you to take a little time to read (1 Corinthians 8:9-13), and take away the reference to eating in general; but look at the underlying message of faith. Could this possibly apply to you in any areas of your relationships and interactions with others?
Let us pray ~
Dear Lord, please forgive me for those times when I am more concerned about the conviction rather than the conversion of others and am not even aware of my own miscalculations and shortcomings. Please help me to accept other believers opinions without attitudes, quarreling, or judgment and keep me from being critical, condescending, or self-righteous. Please help me to be slow to speak that I not do or say anything that might cause another believer to stumble in their faith or hinder the work You are doing in them. I thank you for Your Word. Grant me wisdom and understanding, along with discernment to know how to convey the message that You have placed in my heart. I give You all the praise, honor, and glory, and all this I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen …