Sermon Manuscript . . .
Learning to Accept Others
Years ago there was a book that caught the fascination of the American public called, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Shortly thereafter, it was followed by, Real Women Don’t Pump Gas. The first one described what real men do and don’t do. And the second one, what real women do and don’t do. This week, I asked the staff for some help to jot down what real pastors do and don’t do.
Real pastors study at hipster coffee shops, never Starbucks. They don’t wear skinny jeans, quote a Puritan and/or Reformer in every sermon. They can preach fifty minutes on the dot without a clock in the back. And they hold intern meetings at McDonalds.
In conjunction with today’s passage, let’s ask what real Christians do and don’t do. And these kinds of things vary from Christian to Christian, depending upon the background people come out of. For instance, if you come from a conservative background, you might love hymnals, pastors in a tie, homemade dresses, you don’t play cards, you don’t dance, don’t wear make-up, don’t drink, smoke or chew or hang around with girls that do.
If you come from a Pentecostal background, you might have a different type of preference. You might sing with your hands raised and hips moving, say “Amen/Hallelujah” at least five times per prayer, call everybody “brother” or “sister,” even though you know their names.
Now for some of you, FBC is the only background you have. You’d probably say real Christians love the NAS Bible, dress any way they like for church, and true spiritual Christians meet in homes and rented school buildings. All of these are extra-biblical, unwritten rules, and are found in the Church.
All throughout Church history, there have always been the scriptural truths the Bible teaches, that God expects all believers to obey from a heart of love. But in a strange kind of way, in every fellowship, a list of unwritten, extra-biblical rules develop–rules about fashion, family, styles of music, proper forms of recreation and diet. And what often happens is, the people in that church begin to make value judgments as to real spirituality–based not on whether their life conforms to the Word of God, but more on the basis of whether their life conforms to the unwritten extra-biblical rules that have surfaced in that church.
Thankfully, the Bible speaks to this issue and the apostle Paul expresses God’s concern about these extra-biblical issues which cause conflict between Christians in Romans 14, starting in verse 1 through 15:13. Paul is not talking about making assessments on whether their lives are conforming to the Word of God or not–that’s expected. He is talking about extra-biblical kinds of nuances. In fact, the ones he brings up here in this chapter are dietary rules and a few holidays that some felt should be observed and others felt shouldn’t be observed.
And Paul will say to you, “There are many people from diverse backgrounds making up the true Church.” Yes, there are the biblical commands we all comply with, but there are all kinds of extra-biblical taboos and morays that develop over time in a church. And Paul wants to say something to the Romans and to you at FBC about those kinds of extra-biblical rules–and it is this. Don’t let them become so dominate in the church that you start becoming divided in your fellowship over these extra biblical details. Don’t allow traditions, rules, lifestyle preferences or gray areas cause disunity in your church body or become the priority in your fellowship.
Today, Paul will teach us how and why we must accept each other, even when we disagree over these issues. We must prioritize our unity over our extra-biblical preferences. Open your Bibles to Romans 14 and take your outline and allow me to begin by clarifying the issues.
First God is very concerned about Unity
Listen, God will overlook weak programs or poor facilities, but Jesus will not tolerate conflict in our midst. Unity is very high on God’s priority scale. In John 17:23 Jesus said to the Father in prayer, “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me.”
The world will know who Jesus is by our unity. That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 4:3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Work hard at making sure unity is maintained in our midst. And why is God so concerned about our unity? Because that’s what God is like–a unity . . . God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Second God isn’t very concerned about disputable matters
What is a disputable matter? Sometimes they’re called gray areas, traditions or preferences–but no matter what they’re called, they’re issues the Bible is silent on. They’re issues not commanded nor prohibited in the Word of God. It’s an area where there isn’t a clear word from God in the Scripture, nor were they major issues with Jesus.
Jesus never demanded conformity from his disciples in gray areas, yet they all were extremely different. In fact, over and over Jesus broke the extra-biblical religious rules of the Sabbath the Jews had invented. Traditions were not His main concern.
Third What areas were the Romans struggling with?
There were three basic areas of struggle in the first century–diet, drink and days. What can a Christian eat and not eat, what can they drink and shouldn’t drink and what days are special holy days and what days are not?
Fourth What areas do today’s believers struggle with?
Children’s vaccinations, home births, drinking alcohol, homeschool, dating/courting, birth control, smoking–you can add dancing, movie going, hair length, and “can I listen to music produced by ‘non-Christians?'” In some places, women are judged if they wear make-up–usually by women who should. In fact, it’s a sin if they don’t. (That was a joke.)
We all have our own list–the question is, what happens when your list doesn’t match my list? What happens when I disagree with your preferences? How am I supposed to get along with people who behave differently than me? Those who don’t have my passion for schooling, who don’t know what I know about vaccines, or homebirths? Who don’t dislike what I dislike and don’t like what I love? How am I supposed to be unified with people who do things I can’t do and don’t do things that I can do? The first point is the command–Christians who disagree on disputable matters are to . . .
#1 Accept each other
Look at verse 1, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” Like Paul said in Philemon 1:17, “Accept him as you would me.” I believe God says to us to accept people we disagree with as if it were Jesus. Literally, receive them, take them to yourself–like a hug, you pull them in, not push them away. What a tender picture, isn’t it?
It’s true, where two or three are gathered in My name, there will be a difference of opinion. As loving as FBC is, there are differences of opinion in our midst over music, dress, drink, diet, days, hair, and holiday practices. God says, “Accept each other–pull each other in.” God is saying here for us to fight our natural tendency to . . .
First Compare yourself with others–this is deadly, since each individual Christian is different
Second Don’t try to control. Instead of allowing people to be who they are, we try to control them to be the way we want them to be–like us. Don’t.
Third Don’t condemn. Paul says in verse 1, don’t accept them just so you can argue with their opinions. You know, “I accept you, now let me work you over to get you to change your mind over an issue. Let me keep blogging about it so you will eventually give in and agree.”
No, Paul says accept others, embrace them in a hug. But what makes it so difficult? Paul tells us in verse 1, there’re different kinds of people in every church. In every true church, there are different categories of people. In every church there are . . .
• wheat and tares, hot and cold, saved and unsaved
• children in the faith, young men who are growing in the Word, and spiritual fathers who are intimate with Jesus
• those who are right now under the control of the flesh, and others who are under the control of the Spirit
• from Romans 14, those who are weak over certain issues, and others who are strong over those same issues
Paul says in verse 1, what makes it so difficult to accept each other is that some are weak in faith over certain issues, and others are strong. What does it mean to be weak in faith? If we are to accept the one who is weak in faith (verse 1)–what’s that mean? Weak doesn’t mean someone who is a critical, complaining, intolerant hearer, but not a doer of the Word–not at all. Those are sins needing confrontation from Christians and discipline from God, not acceptance.
In verse 1, the weak are those who feel guilty about doing something not specifically addressed in the Bible. They’re not weak about everything (there is no such thing as a professional weaker brother in the Bible–those who act like they are are not real brothers). The word weak is a participle which means one whose faith falters at a given moment or in a special case. The strong are those who are free to participate in a specific behavior that’s not prohibited in the Bible.
Now understand that there are many shades of weak and levels of strong among those indwelt with Christ. There are those here who are primarily strong, but weak in a few areas of gray. There are those here who are primarily weak, but growing strong in some areas of gray. Why is that? It all depends upon your family background, your spiritual history, your exposure to good teaching and your maturity as a Christian.
Let me illustrate. Often when a believer first becomes a Christian, in an attempt to show his overwhelming gratitude to Christ for what he’s done, he becomes a meticulous rule keeper–not only with the Bible, but also in extra-biblical behavior that others tell him to do. He wants to show the depth of gratitude to Christ, and though he doesn’t have a lot of discernment at this point, he is brand new, a rookie, he wants to know what the rules are and how to live within them.
Probably this is an overcompensation because he used to lead a wild life, a pleasure-oriented, power-seeking, money-grabbing kind of life–I’m sure you can identify. Then you discovered you were a sinner before a holy God, received amazing grace through the death of Christ. And you had a conversion experience, you were born again, God came to live in you and through you.
So you said to God, “Just tell me what the rules are–I just want to obey You, Jesus.” As a result, many new Christians become narrow, legalistic and mechanical. But as a Christian matures and the Holy Spirit begins to lead, guide and empower, what happens over time is a gradual weaning from that rigid approach to their walk with Christ. Over time, the Christian becomes guided and motivated from within instead of all these rules and regulations from without. Some of you can relate.
Like the student driver who studies how to put his hands on the wheel, how to put his feet on the pedals–and when he first starts driving, it’s awkward, mechanical and rough, because he is trying to do everything by the book. Then six months later, he’s got his arm out the window, he’s got the radio on, it’s all become familiar.
A believer may start their Christian life with “rigid, mechanical, extra-biblical rule-following”, and it might even be with good motive. These extra-biblical prescriptions help to avoid temptation, to grow in Bible study, to pursue purity, to please the Lord in every area of my life. Eventually they will grow in maturity and recognize that those “prescriptions” were helpful for them, but not a requirement for everybody. They are preferences, not law.
Over time, a Christian will strengthen and find many helps to “drive the car” of the Christian life, and not all the “helps” are for everybody. Your background and home will affect this as well. And here is the dilemma. For the rest of your life, you’re going to associate with people who are more conservative than you and others who are more liberal than you are in gray areas.
But God says we need to learn to accept them. You weak need to accept the strong and you strong need to accept the weak–despite their spiritual level of maturity, despite their background or past experiences, despite their preference. Who is the weak person? It’s always the other guy. How many people want to admit they’re weak?
But Paul is not talking about moral weakness or biblical immaturity, but someone who is weak in faith in a certain area. Verse 1 says, “weak in faith.” Literally the weak person has a problem understanding the faith. A weak Christian is one who does not fully understand or can live under the grace of God in some area.
We call this person today a legalist. You could substitute legalist for weak in this passage and not do harm to the verses. This is the person who makes rules where there are no rules. It is when I take my preferences on gray issues and force them on you in one area. I have a poem describing the legalist.
Believe as I believe, no more no less
that I am right and no one confess
Feel as I feel, think as I think
eat what I eat, and drink what I drink
Look only as I look, do always as I do
for then and only then, will I fellowship with you.
I know people like that–weak people. So did Jesus. We are going to find in our study that God doesn’t want His children to stay weak (literally feeble or sick), but while they are, we need to accept them and each other. But how do I do it? I don’t like their music, I don’t think they should have an occasional beer, I don’t like what they wear to church, I don’t think they should be able to drive a Mercedes, I don’t think they should send their kids to public school, I don’t believe they should vaccinate their kids.
#2 How can I accept others who disagree with me?
Read verses 1 to 4 with me silently. “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
Allow me to draw out some principles here . . . How can I accept others who disagree with me?
First By not judging their motives
Notice verse 1, “not for the purpose of judging.” Verse 3, “judge him who eats,” verse 4, “who are you to judge?” The issue here was diet–there were some Christians who were vegetarians and others who were meat eaters. The issue was not nutrition, but some meat was offered to idols then sold in the market to be purchased by Christians.
Some Christians used to be idol worshippers and were not free to eat the meat, just in case it was idol meat–where others didn’t care and bought the meat. I’m sure that after church some Christians headed to McFlauvels and one ordered the side salad, and the other the McIdolmeat burger. And they were struggling with each other.
Paul says neither side should judge each other’s motives–one person is free, the other is not. God knows their heart. Matthew 7 says when you judge someone’s motives, it blinds you to your own faults. While judging the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, you have a telephone poll sticking out of yours. Jesus said in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Paul says the moment you start judging someone’s heart motives on non-Biblical issues, you’re doomed. Don’t ever forget, the majority of those who fall hard in the Christian walk are legalists who set up such high standards, they themselves can’t even keep them. (That was the problem of the Pharisees.) To accept others, we must not judge their motives.
Second By not labeling them
Notice verse 3, “regard with contempt.” Contempt is a very strong word. It’s the same word to describe how Herod’s soldiers treated Jesus at His trail–with contempt (Luke 23:11). Literally, it is to treat someone as nothing. Don’t treat fellow Christians that way. God doesn’t want us complaining, making fun of, or thanking God we’re not like them or secretly feeling superior to them. God never gives you or me the right to belittle another Christian’s heart conviction. Therefore, don’t call other Christians worldly, legalists or liberals because they disagree with you on gray issues.
Verse 2 says, if a strong Christian can eat meat sacrificed to idols along with crab, lobsters, shrimp and pork chops–don’t call him compromising or liberal. He is free to eat–amen? First Timothy 4:4, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude.” Acts 10:15, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” As Paul will say next in Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
And verse 2 says if someone can’t eat meat because he used to be an idol worshiper, and the easiest way for him to deal with the issue is to eat only vegetables, don’t call him a narrow-minded, unspiritual, legalistic Pharisee. Name calling is the lowest form of reprimand. We’re not to pass judgment on their opinions–literally in verse 1, their reasonings. Don’t categorize the strong over their freedoms or the weak over their sacrifices–just accept them.
We need to accept people for who they are. We may not always like the choices they make, but we need to accept them for who they are. We must move away from a list that somehow defines who we accept and who we don’t, concerning preference issues. So we accept others by not judging their motives and by not labeling them. And we accept others by . . .
Third By not trying to change others
Verse 1, to accept only in order to change their opinions. Verse 4–the thought here is, who are you to try and change someone else’s servant? “To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” You know the favorite indoor sport of a lot of Christians is to try to change other people. Notice Paul says here, “he stands or falls.”
Typically, when a legalist sees someone who has liberty he says, “Boy, that guy is really fallen–I thought he was a great Christian, but the other day I saw him painting his house on Sunday. I thought he was a great Christian, but the other day I saw him drinking wine with dinner–he is really going down the tubes, spiritually. Maybe he isn’t even a Christian!” Remember, Paul’s not talking about biblical commands, but the areas where the Bible is silent. But God says, “I’m able to make him stand and not fall.”
Listen, you can’t change people, save people or keep them saved by keeping them from certain gray choices. Only God can keep anyone from falling and make them stand. Jude 1:24 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” I like that bumper sticker, “Please be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet.”
Verse 4 tells us, God will keep people saved. Don’t forget–they have to answer to Jesus, not you. Don’t try to change everyone into your way of thinking. If they want to pierce their nose . . . if they want to have a beer after work . . . if they enjoy country western music . . . if they want to have a cat instead of a dog . . . if they want to drive a Tesla–they have to answer to God (and God’s appointed authorities, like parents, teachers, employers, elders and police) not you. God will get them for listening to country western music.
So how do I accept people who are different from me? Don’t judge their motives, don’t label them and don’t try to change them concerning disputable matters. These verses are not addressing the clear truths of God’s Word. But why Paul, why should I even try to accept others?
#3 Why am I to accept those who disagree with me?
First Because God has already accepted other Christians
Verse 3, “Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.” Am I smarter than God? One of the most frustrating things I have had to learn in this life is this–God blesses people I disagree with. Can you believe that? Have you noticed that too? God doesn’t just bless the people I agree with, but in these areas of gray, God blesses people who are totally different than I am.
God blesses legalists–weak people as well as the strong/spiritual liberals. He does. And the motive for tolerance of people who disagree with you on disputable matters is this–if God accepts you with your hang-ups, then surely you should accept others with their hang-ups. As Paul says later in Romans 15:7, “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
Second Because Christians are responsible to Jesus, not me
Verse 4, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Your opinion of the Mueller family maid will not change my relationship with her–because she’s my maid, not yours. (We don’t have one, though Jean deserves one cause she works so hard–but you were ready to judge me, I could feel it!)
Your opinion of a weak or strong Christian will not change Jesus’ relationship with them either. The Lord Jesus is Master of both the weak and strong. Those weaker brothers who can’t enjoy their freedoms and those stronger sisters who can, all answer to Jesus, not you. It is not my responsibility to judge you or any other Christian on any non-moral, non-Biblical issue.
Third Because I don’t know other Christians’ motives
I don’t know the motive of people who differ from me on non-scriptural issues. I can’t see into their heart. Look at verse 5, “One man regards (literally, makes a decision on) one day above another, another regards every day alike.” Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. Listen, making one day more holy than another day–even Sunday, is a weakness.
Colossians 2:16 says, “Let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day“–let no one force you into having to honor a feast or a worship day. Some hold certain days as more important than others, so Paul says in verse 5, “be fully convinced in your own mind.”
Verse 6, “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” In other words, whatever you think you should do, you ought to do. Don’t violate your conscience. If you’re strong, thank God for your freedom. If you’re weak, thank God for your sacrifice in the things you give up. But whether certain days require special behavior or all days are the same–the point is, it’s all for the Lord. Those who might use this verse as an excuse to go to Disneyland instead of church are defiant in disobedience, and do not understand why they were saved. But aren’t you glad your rewards in Heaven are not going to be based on what other people think of you?
Hey, if you are doing what you do for the Lord, Jesus can see your heart. Only Jesus can see your motive. That’s why I can be doing something for the Lord and you can be doing something totally different, yet we are both going to receive reward from the Lord in Heaven, because we are both doing it for Him.
An ex-gambler may never play with cards again because of his past, but he is making that choice for the Lord. Others will play cards with Christians for fellowship, and they are doing that for the Lord. Both will be rewarded by Christ for their actions, done from a pure heart to Him by His Spirit for His glory. Don’t try to guess, don’t assume, and don’t speculate on other Christians’ motives–just accept their gray choices. The fourth reason we are to accept each other is . . .
Fourth Because Christians are related to each other in Christ
Verse 7 says, “For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself.” Whether we are weak or strong, we do what we do for Christ, not for ourselves. We submitted to His Lordship when we became Christians. We left our self-centeredness behind–so now our most basic desire is to serve Him. All true Christians live for Jesus and we die for Jesus, not ourselves.
Plus, as we live for Jesus, we do so together. We are all part of the body of Christ–no man is an island. We are all inter-related–therefore, if I condemn you, in a way I am actually condemning myself. As Romans 12:5 already reminded us, “So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Anything you do affects me and anything I do affects you. And Paul is saying here (write this down)–our relationships with one another are more important than our lifestyle. If we can grasp this truth, we’ll have a unified body. Our relationships to each other are more important than our lifestyle choices involving gray areas. Not one of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone–we are related to each other. So when I judge you, in essence I’m judging myself. And we are to accept weak or strong Christians . . .
Fifth Because Christians are the possession of Christ
Look at verses 8 and 9, “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Why does Jesus have the right to evaluate all us Christians? Because verse 8 tells us Christ owns us, and verse 9 tells us Christ is in charge.
Look at the end of verse 8, “we are the Lord’s.” Jesus owns us all–we are His possession. Just like Titus 2:14 that says, Jesus “…gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” And look at verse 9–it says Jesus died and rose again so that He might be the Lord and Master of all. He is the one who is in charge.
The Bible speaks about people who deny that Jesus is the Lord. In fact, Jude 1:4 warns us about those who think Jesus can be Savior without being our Master. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
But Paul’s point in Romans 14 is, Jesus is the owner and Jesus is in charge–therefore we have no right to try to control or condemn others who are different than us in areas where the Bible is silent. Where the Word of God speaks, we speak and hold one another accountable to live by its truths, because that is what Jesus would do. Where the Word of God is silent, we are silent toward one another, because that is what Jesus would do.
I have two great boys. When they were young, if you were to grab them in the hallway and say this, “Boys, your hairstyle is all wrong–you both need a buzz. And those clothes are inappropriate for church–change them now. And no more drinking Pepsi for either of you, ever again–only coffee, that’s good for you. Plus, you both need to go to a new school, starting tomorrow.”
If I heard about this little talk, I can guarantee you I would be having a little talk right quick with you! Why? Because they’re not your boys–I’m their parent. I’m primarily responsible for them. God gave them to me to parent as His steward. It’s the same way with you and other Christians in areas where they make gray area choices different than you. They’re not your possession and you’re not in charge. And finally in verses 10 to 12, we are to accept those we disagree with . . .
Sixth Because I am only accountable for MYSELF in disputable matters
Verse 10, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Each Christian here is going to be judged–not for sin. Jesus took our condemnation on the cross. But we will be judged for reward. And we will stand alone before Jesus as He evaluates our life to reward only those actions which were done in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God.
The Judgment seat of Christ is found seven times in the New Testament. Second Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” As a result of that judgment, Romans 14:11 says, “For it is written, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.'” We’ll all give praise to God in worship for what He’s done.
So Paul says in verse 12, “So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” I’m responsible for my choices, my actions, my list, my preferences, my freedoms, my sacrifices–not yours. Don’t run around trying to correct people in all their extra-biblical, disputable, gray area choices. Don’t blog your opinion, twitter your choices, FaceBook your superior decisions.
They will answer to God for those, whether useful or not (God’ll take care of it for them, you take care of yourself). You’re responsible for you in gray areas, not others. Therefore, don’t try to conform people to your choices in extra-biblical areas. Don’t act as their judge. Don’t call them names, don’t guess people’s motives, don’t try to be their Lord or their conscience, don’t try to expose everyone’s blind spots. Don’t talk down to or belittle people who have a different opinion, bu accept others, love others, promote unity and be responsible for yourself.
There is going to be a day of accounting. One day Jesus was talking with Peter and He told Peter he (Peter) was going to die a martyr’s death. And Peter turned and looked at John and said, “What about him, Lord?” (John 21:21). Jesus said, “It’s none of your business, Peter–you just follow me. What I chose for John is none of your business. Everyone has their own story–you follow me, Peter.”
Jesus says the same thing to us today. “Their gray choices, their freedoms, their preferences and their sacrifices are between Me and them. Remember, you are accountable to Me for your life, not theirs.”
TAKE THIS HOME
Allow me to conclude by sharing some important principles.
A The secret to genuine unity among Christians at FBC is EXPECT every Christian to live by the truth of the Bible
Accept every Christian on issues not addressed in the Bible. If you are not a Christian, we don’t expect you to live like a believer until you are one, since only Christ in you can live the Christian life. You should come to Christ tonight. But if you are a believer, then God expects us to hold each other accountable to obey the Word of God.
Where there is clear principle, we expect obedience and we speak representing Jesus to one another–that is not judgment, that is love according to truth. I am not judging you by saying, “Don’t gossip, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t lie or don’t rebel.” I am just saying what Jesus would say if He were present, hopefully the way He would say it too.
But what about where the Bible isn’t clear? Where there is silent preference, we accept one another and don’t speak to each other, since Jesus doesn’t either.
B PURSUE unity, since it is crucial to Christ
Colossians 3:14 gives us the secret to unity. “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” We need to learn to love those with different freedoms and those with different weaknesses than us. I believe the key is to learn to agree to disagree agreeably. To feel we all have to agree on everything to be unified is unrealistic. It’ll never happen, folks, this side of Heaven.
Now when it comes to the truth of the Word, we need work hard to come to unity. But we need to agree to disagree agreeably on issues the Bible does not address. It is a mark of maturity to agree to disagree on disputable gray areas and still love and accept each other.
C MATURE where you need to grow
If you’re mainly strong, you need to grow in sacrificial love. If you’re mainly weak, you need to grow in knowledge.
D Make a practice of being QUIET
Not secretive, but no one needs to know you birth in a bathtub, brew beer in a bathtub, or wash in a bathtub. You are making preferences into principles–we have elevated the unnecessary. Don’t make your preferences your main conversation, make Christ and His Word your main focus.
E Keep focused on your internal HEART, not external choices
The drift of every Christian alive is toward externals–fight that. Let your focus be treasuring Christ in your heart, obeying His Word out of love, focusing on Christ in others and glorifying God in the way you treat others–even those who are different from you in your gray choices. Let’s pray.