Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 26 April 21:
Note: Here is a short video overview of 1 Samuel: https://youtu.be/QJOju5Dw0V0
Romans 14:1 — “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions…. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.”
How incredible would it be if Christians and their respective churches put Romans 14 into practice? The body of Christ suffers from tremendous disunity and consequential disempowerment because of unproductive quarrels over various religious practices and traditions which often have little to do with the central message of the Gospel – “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike.” Divisions between denominations and between churches within denominations can become quite worldly and hostile, destroying the witness of those involved. Some church denominations even forbid certain Christians from participating in communion, not because those Christians aren’t committed believers in Christ, but because they aren’t members of that particular denomination and don’t subscribe to Their man-made traditions; this is contrary to the teachings of the Bible – “decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother (Romans 14:13).”
There are some cases concerning non-negotiable doctrine on the Gospel or concerning clearly unbiblical practices where differences may be irreconcilable, and division required –
- Galatians 1:6-9 — I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
- 2 John 1:9-11 — Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
- 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 — If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
However, too often non-essential Scriptural interpretations divide denominations and churches. But why can’t we disagree without being disagreeable? Why can’t we disagree about some of the more complex, debatable theological issues while remaining united in the love of Christ? Can’t we trust God to reveal truth to His faithful servants? “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand (Romans 14:4).” We must address disagreements with Jesus’ aim for us in mind – “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23)
We must remember that disunity among believers is ultimately counter to the aim of the Gospel, contrary to the ministry and message of reconciliation, and out of step with the Spirit –
- 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 — I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?
- Mark 3:24-26 — If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
- Colossians 3:12-15 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
To those who are weak in their faith, we must learn to show grace within the body. In Corinth, Paul encouraged knowledgeable Christians to show gentleness and understanding to new believers who, get this, still did not understand that there is only one God and that idols are fictitious, meaningless and powerless – “not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled (1 Corinthians 8:7).” Rather than ridiculing these new believers for their tremendous lack of understanding, Paul encouraged the enlightened Christians not to eat meat sacrificed to idols in order to remove that stumbling block from the spiritual development of those baby Christians.
Be gracious to those who are misguided in their faith but who love Jesus, and continue to lovingly proclaim the truth of God to them, guiding them gently to greater understanding as a reconciler. It is hard to be on the ministry of reconciliation when you are quarreling with others and putting up barriers or stumbling blocks.
One of the best methods of restoring unity within the Body is by getting Christians back into the word of God. I am very thankful for the Defenders Group with representation across the denominations, studying God’s word together with a heart for the Lord and for each other.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Apr 21: Be patient and encouraging with those less grounded in the truth than you. Remain true to the word in your own behavior; speak the truth to the misguided in love, and always display the love of Christ.