It is time for followers of Jesus Christ and the church of Jesus Christ to move forward. I continue to hear of churches that are being torn apart over differences of perspective. This is nothing new as we have record of the same thing happening in the churches of the New Testament. My heart breaks to hear of these as well as the wedges being driven between spouses, the fracturing of families, and even the destruction of life-long best friendships. It does not matter where you stand on these issues and both sides are culpable. This is not Christ honoring! The greatest gift next to our relationship with the Lord Himself is our relationships with others. It is time to put these preferences, convictions or whatever you choose to call them into perspective with God’s call on our lives
Now before you write me off, consider that this problem plagues both sides of the swirling cultural issues and concerns. I am not exempt and neither are you. My challenge is not for you to abandon your positions but rather to live them out in a God honoring way. This is a a challenge for those that support the current restrictions and those that oppose them. It is an opportunity for those that align with one political party over the other. It seems as if every aspect in our lives is polarized to the point of “If you are not with me, you are against me!” This attitude contradicts God’s call upon His people and we can make a difference.
The Bible has much to say about allowing these issues to dominate our lives. Paul wrote several times to correct the issue of his day, “food sacrificed to idols.” (I would encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 to gain a better perspective on how to handle these issues in your life.) The first paragraph of Romans 14 zeroes in on what is missing in many of our lives today. Let’s look at three Biblical admonitions for us today.
Invest in your relationship with others regardless of their position on disputable issues. Yes, the Bible says that. “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” (Romans 14:1) Remember the issue is eating food offered to idols. The issue was rooted in whether it was God honoring to buy and eat the discounted surplus food sold by the pagan temples. Some abstained because it was offered to idols while others said it as a non-issue and a good deal. The word “quarrel” means to become contentious. The word “opinions‘ communicates a position that is reached after consideration. Let me offer a word of warning, be careful not to make disputable issues equal with the non-negotiable Biblical absolutes. We are admonished to not be contentious but “welcoming.” “Welcoming” means to literally invite someone into your home. It speaks of investing in a relationship, not to persuade them to our point of view, but to help them know and grow in Jesus. I also need to point out that a person that responds this way is actually demonstrating their spiritual maturity in Jesus. (Think of Barnabas as an example)
Treat the other person with dignity. It is sad that we fall into the trap of justifying treating others in a unchristian way through our words and actions. It is good to have strong positions on issues, but we must still act like Jesus. The Bible reminds us to allow for different perspectives on these gray areas. “One person believes he may _________, while the weak person __________. Let not the one who _____ despise the one who __________, and let not the one who _______ pass judgment on the one who _______, for God has welcomed him.” (Romans 14:2–3) (Go ahead and fill in the blank with an issue)
We must let God be God (read “I am not god!”) This third insight emphasizes that the Lord has not abdicated His throne to us. He is working in the lives of all His followers. And He supports those on both sides of the issue. “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 14:4) Oh how we need to grasp this truth today. We are called to focus on our relationship with the Lord. It is all that we can control. And just as we are accountable to our Creator, He is also working in those believers on the other side of the issue. The term “to make him stand” speaks of the Lord’s encouragement and assistance to those we oppose (just as He helps us).
I want to challenge you in joining me to move forward. I don’t expect to change your mind and doubt you will be able to change mine. I cannot stand by letting our church become another cultural casualty. I do want to work together to fulfill our calling to bring the message of Jesus to every person possible, no matter where they stand on these or any issues.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson