United but with Disagreements
Written by Alan Rouse - repost from christianunityblog.net / Editors note: While Alan addresses a current point of disagreement, this essay provides biblical guidelines for any disagreement. Thank you, Alan.
This humble blog can’t settle the issue of gender roles in the church. If only it were that simple!
Neither will your blog, nor your church, nor your favorite preacher or scholar.
Local leadership has to settle the question of how they will respond to the issues in their own congregation. I would love to make other congregations see it my way, but I must leave that in God’s hands. If some leader wants to discuss this topic with me I’d be happy to supply them with the principles and rationale that bring me to my conclusions. But that’s as far as I can go.
What’s far more important in today’s environment is finding a way for our congregations to cooperate and interoperate given our differences on this issue. Romans 14 gives us valuable instructions for this kind of situation.
1. We must stop passing judgment on each other.
Rom 14:3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
God is able to make the other person stand. Don’t take it upon yourself to make him stand where you want him to stand. And don’t reject those whom the Lord has accepted.
2. We must respect and protect the consciences of those who cannot follow our view.
Rom 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
Rom 14:15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
Rom 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Rom 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
Rom 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.
Do we want to be able to continue working together, having joint worship services, conferences and the like? Unless we find a way to do so without forcing the other side to do what is sin for them, then we cannot. Jesus wants us to be united. Before you decide to force your position on the others, ask yourself this: “Is this issue really worth dividing over?” Let’s make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.
3. We must not quarrel about these things (especially in public)
Rom 14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.
Quarreling about this in public is divisive. People who hear will take sides and will come to disrespect those who see the issue differently. Factions will form and people will be drawn away from one congregation to another. Actually, we already see this happening. Instead, we should let God sort out the matter. Have faith in God! It’s those who wait upon the Lord who will renew their strength.
4. People on each side must not violate their own consciences
Rom 14:23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Individuals must not yield to pressure to do what in their consciences they believe to be wrong. And leaders must not apply that kind of pressure to anyone.
There is a way for us to move forward with united hearts despite disagreements. Our flesh wants to win the argument and get our way. The way of the Gospel is different. Let’s choose the way of peace and mutual edification.
Alan Rouse was baptized in the campus ministry at NC State University in 1976. Since then he has been a member in both Churches of Christ and ICOC congregations. Alan has blogged for for many years advocating for greater unity with the various streams of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement at christianunityblog.net. Today he is an elder in the Atlanta Church of Christ in Gwinnett. Alan and his wife Sherry live in the Atlanta area and have two adult children and six grandchildren.