I am proud growing up in this church ~ we have done our best to leave wiggle room for the non-essential teachings of the Christian faith…. many examples: Paul says in this chapter meat eaters and vegetarians ought to get along, clearly a principle of agreeing to disagree over non-essential issues. Here is an incomplete list I found of some of the things Christians have disagreed on over the decades: Movies, Interracial Marriage, Hairstyles, Seeker Services, Politics, Smoking, Borrowing Money, Fishing on Sunday, Divorce & Remarriage, Women Ushers, Pipe Organs, Rush Limbaugh, Men Wearing Beards, Drinking Wine, Women Wearing Jewelry, Raising Children, Faith-Promise Giving, Dating Standards, Pledging, Liberal Churches, Christian Psychology, Mode of Baptism, Worship Style, Timing of the Rapture, School Choice, Age of the Earth, Birth Control.
I saw an intriguing title of a sermon I almost borrowed for this message: “How to Kill a New Christian.” How? You confuse the new Christian with endless arguments about secondary issues. You condemn those that disagree with you. You impose standards that are not important. Isn’t this why we are sometimes afraid of introducing our new Christian friends to the church?...
Practical ways to love those with whom you disagree. [List from Ray Pritchard.] There are a lot of sayings that are often more true than we’d like to admit: “Let’s agree to disagree and quietly resent each other.” “Rather than us agreeing to disagree why don’t you just be quiet.” “If by ‘agree to disagree’ you mean ‘let’s continue to think each other is an idiot’ then sure.” Agreeing to disagree in the Romans 14 sense means respect. How do you give grace for others to form their own convictions that are different from you, without thinking they just don’t get it?
1. Make up your Own Mind. READ Rom. 14:5. The goal is peace. The goal is for all of us to get along not by all thinking alike, not merely tolerating others, but by accepting and appreciating each other. Mutual respect even when one votes Democrat and another votes Republican. Peace with others starts by finding peace within your own heart! You are the one person you can never get away from!
Make up your own mind. Only a confident person can truly accept others. I know what I believe about the end times. I absolutely believe with all my heart the Lord Jesus Christ may return at any moment and that will be the end. I had one person who spent about 15 minutes this week explaining to me there is no way Jesus can return in any moment because, he said, certain things have to happen first. He was talking about the chaos in Iraq. I listened. I accept his heartfelt conviction. I believe he truly believes what he believes. But I don’t. Whatever your issue, study it, consider alternatives, and form the convictions of your mind.
2. Live So That No One Can Criticize Your Decisions. READ Rom. 14:6.
Living a truly Christian life is marked by humility, kindness, compassion, love for others, honesty, integrity, and hope amid life’s difficulties. If these things are present in your life, it won’t matter whether or not you mow your lawn on Sunday. Whatever your convictions may your heart be a heart of thanksgiving and humility.
I believe the Bible is the word of God and makes a daily and eternal difference to people, BUT if you hit people over the head with the Bible it is wrong! How you conduct yourself is as important as the convictions of your heart. Is there anything worse than an obnoxious Christian? One person said it this way: Live so that those who disagree with you look up to you as a model worth following. (R. Pritchard) I try to do that. On this father’s day is it ok if I brag on my father who modeled this? Christians and non-Christians alike still admire his example of consistency, acceptance of others…I try…
3. Give Others the Right to form their own convictions. READ Rom. 14:6-7
If you have the right to your opinion, your friend also has the right. You can decide to listen to Glenn Beck, and maybe he doesn’t want to.
Let me be clear. There are issues that are not open to debate. Listen to words from the scripture Jack used last Sunday. READ 2 Cor. 5:20. We are compelled to persuade others to accept Jesus Christ as Lord. There is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ! But the style of worship is a secondary issue…If you prefer the King James Version I think that’s great…
Pastor George Teshera was buried this week. As missionaries in the Philippines George and Bev were part of a transition era for world missions. Prior to the Tesheras, it was common for missionaries to go from the Western World to the third world and try to convert the native people to a form of Christianity that looked liked the world in which they came. The idea was to put Africans in churches with pews and pipe organs. Pastor George was part of a new era of missionaries. He went to the Philippines with the idea of training local people to evangelize themselves and develop for themselves what they looked like. “Be reconciled to God” was an absolute eternal truth, but that did not mean abandoning their culture…
Missions has flourished as we have learned to emphasize the main things, and let the secondary issues develop for what fits the people. We need to follow the same principle @ SACC: If new folks have different thoughts on secondary issues, so be it…
4. Refuse to Criticize Those Who See Things Differently. READ Rom. 14:10a
If you are convinced you are making the best decisions in the best of your understanding before God for the decisions of your life, and you give others the same grace to come to their own conclusions, abstain from criticizing others.
Someone recently criticized our church for our budget! They thought we should set a larger budget in faith, believing the money will be there. I was basically being told we do not have enough faith! At this church we tend to take a much more practical approach looking at what was given the year before and if necessary stretching a bit, knowing we have back up reserves if we should fall short. We believe God has called us to be fiscally responsible using basic wisdom. Who is right? Both approaches have sound examples in the Bible. If other churches are more “faith based,” God bless them, if others like us are more conservative, I stand before God without a doubt that we are still full Christians doing our best to serve him with the resources he has given us.
As long as Christian parents are consistent in raising their children, love their children, and want the best for their children by raising them with Godly values, I believe there is great flexibility in styles. If one parent chooses to let their children watch certain cartoons, or play more video games than another set of parents think is best, what is that to you? Don’t criticize but understand it is between them and God. Refuse to criticize! So what if people are different from you. You are not God!
5. Focus on Things that Unite Us, Not that Divide Us. READ Rom. 14:8.
There is something in human nature that seems to divide us into little groups. The great unifying factor for the people of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. “To the Lord.” This is what is important: READ Rom. 14:9. Jesus broke down the wall that separated us from God and from one another. In him we are joined together in the body of Christ.
There is a great list of things that unite us in Eph. 4:4-6 (READ). These are the “primary issues” of the Christian life. They unite the body of Christ destroying the lines between generations, politics, national boundaries, cultures, economic divides. Focus on these things! They matter more than wine-drinking or wearing your hair a certain way. Remember the words of St. Augustine: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” When the charity is missing, the respect, the allowing others to have different convictions, that is when church fighting/tension among Christians, is at it’s worst. I am determined to only fight for that which is important…
6. I love this advice: Enlarge Your Circle of Friends. I am so proud of many of you who do just this very thing…
When the Bible asks, “Why do you look down on your brother,” (Rom. 14:10), the implication of that verse is the opposite, “respect your brothers and sisters in Christ.” Admire them. I think you will do yourself a world of good and the kingdom of God a world of good by making sure you have friends who think differently from you. If you are a vegetarian and all your friends are vegetarians, how stunted and small is your vision of the Christian life. Respect those who think differently about guns from you. It’s good and healthy to have a friends who truly like you but don’t see eye-to-eye with you on every issue.
7. Get Your Own House in Order So That You Have Nothing to Fear When You Stand Before God! Bottom line: READ Rom. 14:11-12.
I can and should care about you. Love you. Pray for you. Appreicate you. Respect you. Want the best for you. But God’s design is that we are each ultimately responsible for our own decisions, our own convictions, our own practices. Are you ready to stand before God with an open book life and let him read your story. The bottom line is that it is between you and God.
8. One last practical word of application. If you hear nothing else… You may need this advice even before this day ends. The next time you are you tempted to criticize someone else, before you utter a word, stop and say a prayer for that person. Before you criticize, pray for them. Ask God to bless that person. Pray that God will guide them. Yield your own heart to the Lord. If you pray first, you may end up saying nothing at all. As someone has said, “Miss no opportunity to keep your mouth shut.” If you do say something, what you say will likely be changed because you prayed first. If we prayed more, we would talk less, and our words would have greater impact.
How to love those with whom you disagree:
Make up your own mind.
Live so that no-one can criticize your decisions.
Give others the right to form their own convictions.
Refuse to criticize those who see things differently.
Focus on the things that unite us, not divide us.
Enlarge your circle of friends purposefully including those who think differently.
Get your house in order that you have nothing to fear when you stand before God.
Before you speak, pray.
May the Lord Jesus deliver us from a judgmental spirit, loving those with whom we disagree. Amen.