Opinions on faith and life

Balance Beam

2011-08-14

We all wish that the scriptures spelled out everything so that we wouldn’t have to study and dispute about so many things. But as I’ve said many times, it’s likely that God is more concerned with how we disagree than whether we disagree. This means we have to think and talk to each other, but the problem is that we can’t seem to do so with civility and self-control. Often, we don’t even realize that we commit many of the same perceived offenses we see in others, further escalating the discord.

There is a fine balance between discernment and condemnation, tolerance and compromise with sin, healthy debate and destructive dispute. Let’s list some groups of scriptures that help to illustrate the tension various points of scripture present.

Unity or legitimate differences?

To judge or not to judge?

Freedom or restriction?

And of course we could name the great debates that have raged throughout church history and continue to this day: Calvinism/Arminianism, eternal security / conditional security, hierarchy / equality, Bible versions, etc. Disagreements will always be with us, as I have mentioned before (Divide And Conquer, Heresy, Vaporware). So the question is not how to eliminate them, but how to handle them amicably.

When we use statements such as “I bet you would…”, “Anyone who believes that must be…”Those people are all…“, we are making blanket judgments without trials, condemning people we never met and ignoring the fact that people are not one-dimensional and easily stuffed into boxes. When someone points this out to us, we often react with ”I was only stating the truth, not judging“. But that itself is an untruth, even if we have convinced ourselves that we are honestly not meaning anything else. There is just no way to turn blanket condemnations into ”statements of truth".

Likewise, our personal convictions are not the standard of truth. We may be sincerely wrong about many things, and others may honestly disagree without being evil or lying or stupid or blind. We may be able to see inconsistencies in what others believe, but that’s all we should say-- that we see it as inconsistent. The expression of opinion is not wrong in itself, and we need to learn to allow others that same right. But to express it in a way that makes unreasonable or unfounded judgments is unloving at the very least.

How do we stop carving up the Body of Christ? Self-control instead of other-control; self-judgment instead of other-judgment; self-conviction instead of other-conviction; self-denial instead of other-denial. Recognize when a view held by someone else is at least possible; allow others the right to their convictions. Think sensibly and deeply instead of parroting what others say (Acts 17:11). Discern when it is right to debate (Acts 18:28, Jude 1:3) and when we need to walk away (Mat. 7:6).

I know this is all easier said than done. But The Golden Rule (Mat. 7:12) still rules! Jesus didn’t say it would be easy, but he did say it very simply.