Editorial: Nothing but a stumbling block

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November 29, 2021
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November 29, 2021

Editorial: Nothing but a stumbling block

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-2).

Love is the central discipline of the Christian life. In Matthew 22:37-39, Christ said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Despite the innumerable sermons preached on these verses, we often find it difficult to apply these truths to our daily lives. Love should dictate every action we take toward those around us.

That includes the people we disagree with inside the church.

In essential matters, Christians have clear biblical standards to judge others by (although even that judging is to be done in love). These statements are foundational truths we cannot compromise on, such as the path to salvation or God’s standard of morality. We must carefully study God’s Word in order to know these clear truths and live by them.

However, with the gray issues where Scripture doesn’t provide clear commands, sincere believers can evaluate the same issues and come to dramatically different conclusions without violating their consciences. God’s Word offers us numerous helpful principles, but in many cases, we’re left to figure out how best to apply those principles in light of the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

But we can’t turn our personal convictions into dogma. When we work out our stances on gray areas with biblical principles in mind, we’re doing the right thing. But if we try to enforce those standards on others and claim they are the only legitimate interpretation, we wrong our brothers and sisters in Christ by failing to love them more than our interpretation (1 Cor. 8:1).

Paul says, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (Rom. 14:5-6). 

We as sincere Christians will disagree with each other when we form convictions on how to apply biblical principles.

And that’s good.

God created matters of conscience for a reason, and it wasn’t so Christians could squabble and split churches. Living with those who disagree with us on gray areas is a chance to show them love. 

One key way we demonstrate love is through respecting those who disagree with us on matters of conscience and showing them deference. “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).

God is honored by our working out practical ways to apply truth by consulting biblical principles on difficult subjects (Col. 3:23-24). The church should value the harmony found among God’s people despite disagreements over the gray areas, a unity that baffles the world. Only an all-powerful God could allow Christians who disagree on so many issues to come together in love for the shared goals of glorifying Him and carrying out the Great Commission.

And that unity itself is an effective way to witness to the lost. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Then we don’t show love to Christians who disagree with us on matters of conscience, we are nothing, as Paul said. Nothing but a stumbling block to both our fellow believers and the lost.