There are many people with different Christian backgrounds who read this and other Christian blogs. They come from all denominations and sects of the church, both from mainstream churches as well as small independent groups, home churches and those going solo who are in-between churches.
The one thing ALL of these people have in common, apart from a love of the Lord, is they believe the path they are following is the right path, the true path and the pathway to the kingdom of God.
But they also all believe different things. They are all approaching the kingdom of God from slightly different directions. And unfortunately all too often we see bickering between brothers and sisters in the Lord over their differences of opinions.
And it is exactly this issue that Paul is addressing here. Bickering over opinions and differences is not appropriate for brothers and sisters in the Lord. Instead we need to learn from each other because NONE of us knows it all and all of us can learn from each other.
Let's look at it and see what Paul is teaching us that the Lord taught him.
Why Are There Differences?
Christianity started with perfection. Jesus came to earth to establish the way and to teach man the pathway to the kingdom of God. When He died He opened the door so that we could individually stand in the presence of God.
But man is imperfect. Man starts life from the position of being born under the power of sin in a world surrounded by sinful influences that drive human passions and lusts pushing man away from God. To turn away from the world is not an easy thing for the world wants to hold onto its own. The people of the world will persecute and ostracism anyone who steps away from the broad path that leads to destruction.
Now unfortunately as the early church leaders who learned the truth directly from Jesus died out, following leaders in the church were influenced by politics, economics, false teachers and false prophets who introduced teachings that were not in full accord with the truth of the gospel as delivered by Christ.
Even Paul was aware of this discrepancy in his time for he wrote of the imperfection of our understanding in his letter to the Corinthians.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – (1 Corinthians 13:8-12)
In verse 8 we are told that our knowledge will pass away when the perfect comes. That won't happen until the Lord returns and instructs us anew for it is only He who is perfect. Thus as this scripture points out in verse 12, today we look at the truth and the ways of God as one looking into a dim mirror. We do not see clearly but we do see enough of the reflection of God to recognize Him, but not so much as to know every fine detail. We know Him in part, but when Christ is formed fully in we shall know God in full, and to that end He gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us and transform us into the image of Jesus Christ.
But we are not there yet. At least I know I am not there yet, and while there are differences in opinion as to the path and the teachings that lead to God's kingdom, we all have things to learn. And more importantly we need to exercise brotherly love towards one another while we are on this path.
What To Do
Paul gives us good instruction concerning this issue in this section of Romans 14.
1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 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 14:1-4)
Paul instructs us to accept our brothers and sisters in the Lord and show them the love of God. We should not quarrel about opinions as to what one or the other does or believes as they walk the path to the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ.
There are some Christians who believe they should not eat certain foods. Some who believe they should abstain from some foods at certain times and days of the week and year. Others do not accept these same beliefs. Likewise, some see certain days as being more important with respect to when they worship and others do not.
Should we argue with each other about it? Should we put others Christians down because they do not believe as we do?
Absloutely NOT! And that is the point of this scripture. We need to accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we accept our own fleshly brothers and sisters or friends and family with all of their foibles, contradictions and differences of opinion over all kinds of things.
We accept family and friends even when we disagree because we love them. And it is the same with our broader Christian brother and sisters. We accept them because we love them, even if we believe their faith is weak or opinions are wrong over certain matters. Eventually we will all be living together in God's kingdom and we need to learn how to get along with each other NOW!
Learning And Teaching
This does not mean we cannot speak to people about these differences of opinion. In some cases it is important to have serious conversations about the things people hold as truth that is not. We have one standard by which we all can learn, and that is the words God gave us in His bible. We also have one teacher to teach and guide us into all of the truth that God has given us in the Holy Spirit.
And so if we have learned something that may be of value to others, then let us share it and measure it by the truth of the bible and the guiding insight of the Holy Spirit. And we may find, as I often do, that in these conversations both parties learn something and gain a greater insight and so are built up in Jesus Christ.
But when we have thee conversations with those who are weak in the faith, we must do it gently. The bible instructs us in the writings of Paul to be gentle when speaking to those who oppose us, so how much more should we be gentle in discussing the beliefs and opinions of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul says,
23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
So don't quarrel with the brethren, but in gentleness offer a different viewpoint, based on scripture and discuss the issue with kindness and humility as befits brothers and sisters in Christ.
They Will Stand
In the end as the scripture in Romans 14:1-4 shows us, all who are children of the Lord, regardless of whether we believe they are in error over some point of doctrine or system of belief will stand. Not because they are necessarily strong, but because their master and ours, Jesus Christ, will put them on their feet and help them to stand.
None of us stands alone. All of us stand on the foundation that is Jesus Christ and we all stand on the teachings that He gave to righteous people to share with us. We stand on the shoulders of the apostles and prophets who went before us and wrote down the doctrines and forms of worship that we now follow so as to please God.
And God assists us in every way by providing teachers, preachers, prophets, helpers, healers as well as brothers and sisters to support us when we are in need of support and to provide support for them when they need it.
We are family. The family of God. And as members of His family let us treat each other with respect as we would Christ Himself. For when we help, serve and respect each other, we are in fact doing God's will and we are doing it as if to Jesus Christ himself as He told us in Matthew 25:31-46. The section is too long to paste here, but I will include and finish with just one verse from this section.
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' – (Matthew 25:40)
So accept your brothers and sisters in the Lord, overlooking their weaknesses but helping them when or if you can. Do not judge them for what you see as their failures for judgement is not yours to pronounce as only God has the right to judge. And remember at all times that how you treat or mistreat one of your brethren is in truth how you are treating Jesus Christ Himself.
(Image sourced from freeimages.com provided by Svilen Milev)
You might also like:
Who Will Go Into Gods Kingdom
A Divided Kingdom Will Not Stand
The Kingdom Of God Is Within You Parable Of The Leaven
Perfection In Jesus Christ
Hard For A Rich Man To Enter The Kingdom Of Heaven
Labourers In The Vineyard
Parable Of The Marriage Feast The Great Invitation
You Shut The Kingdom Of Heaven Against Men
Growth In The Kingdom Of God
Kingdom Of God Is Like A Mustard Seed
Who Is Jesus
All This For Free
Parable Of The Tenants
What Does It Profit A Man To Gain The Whole World And Lose His Life
Who Are The Little Flock
From Little Things Big Things Grow
Seek To Enter By The Narrow Door
The Great Invitation
To Such Belongs The Kingdom Of God
You Must Be Born Again
Jesus Is The Way
The Holy Spirit
It Doesnt Matter What You Think
Reconciled To God