“Disagreeing without Falling Apart - by Jeff Curtis”
Disagreeing without Falling Apart
By Jeff Curtis
Matters of Opinion?
In the church. People within the church have always had disagreements ad they always will. Some disagreements are doctrinal in nature. Regarding such disagreements, Jude wrote, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for handed down to the saints” (Jude v.3). But, a high percentage of disturbances in congregations are over matters of opinion. In Romans 14, Paul told how Christians should behave when they disagree over issues that are not matters of faith. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can learn to disagree without causing the church to fall apart.
In society. Paul’s concern was with disharmony in the church, but the thoughts outlined can help people in any situation where don’t get along. The principles of accepting others, building others up, and pleasing others, (instead of pleasing self) will benefit any marriage and family. These concepts could relieve tension in business and communities, and even in the political field. Jim McGuiggan argued that the “hardnosed insistence on getting our way …leads to parental / child problems; husband / wife problems resulting in divorce; [and] national and international problems issuing in riots and wars.”
Matters of Faith?
Before Romans 14 can be strictly applied to a disagreement, it must be established that the issue is a matter of opinion. But so, we can legitimately pull some general principles from the passage that will help anytime we disagree with a brother – even if doctrinal issues are being discussed. Here are a few examples that I thought of and you may think of others;
- Be convinced and consistent. We must personally be convinced (Rom.14:5); and we must strive to be consistent in our beliefs, teachings and actions (14:23).
- Be compassionate and considerate. If someone disagrees with our conclusions, let’s determine to walk in love regarding them (14:15a). Instead of being judgmental (14:10a), we will interpret all that they say and do in the best way.
We will enter into any discussion believing that the other person is as honest as we are and that they, too, are trying to live for the Lord (14:8). Let’s do our best to understand the other point of view and be willing to acknowledge any strengths in that position.
- Be caring and concerned. In all that we do, we have to try to never hurt or discourage a brother or sister (14:20-21). Above all, let’s not be responsible for promoting division in a congregation or causing the Lord’s church to “be spoken of as evil” (14:16). With the Lord’s help, let’s always “pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another” (14:19).
Finally, in Romans 12:18, Paul said, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Is spite or our best efforts, sometimes it seems impossible to be at peace with a brother. Sometimes, it may even be necessary to “turn away from” those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching” (16:17). If, however, we apply the general principles of Romans 14 when we disagree with a brother, such occasions will be few and far between. One author wrote, “One thing seems certain [from our study of Romans14]; we ought to be very reluctant to draw lines of fellowship between ourselves and our brother. We ought to be naturally and lovingly inclined to accept even brethren who disagree with us. If we are finally forced to conclude that we can no longer accept a brother because of the nature of the error which he has embraced, it should be only with the greatest reluctance, with sadness and tears.”