Grace Immersion

Day 41

Grace To Disagree

Read Romans 14:1–10

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. Romans 14:4

Someone called our church office last week wanting to know our “official position” on a non-essential issue. You’d be surprised how often I’m asked for our “position.” I’m asked by people in the church, people visiting the church (who presumably want to be reassured that they are among fellow enlightened beings), members of the media… in fact I’d say I’m asked about our stand on non-essential issues more than I’m ever asked about our stand on the essentials of the faith!

Well-known pastor and author Chuck Swindoll says he’s deluged with these requests. Why? As one woman wrote him, “How are we to know what to decide on this issue if Chuck doesn’t tell us!?”

I’m glad it’s his policy not to make official pronouncements on such things. Of course many other pastors are only too delighted to oblige! But you will never mature as long as you have to get your opinions on everything from some leader.

In Romans 14, Paul explains how to get along by grace without all the uniformity enforced by legalism:

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… One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. (vs. 3, 5, 22)

His big idea? “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” In other words, focus on the essentials, not the controversies. Why not be about the “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” instead of the latest litmus test issue?

As C. S. Lewis said, “When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.”

Read the gospels and the epistles carefully: What is the one issue that Jesus and Paul are willing to press? In a word, it’s grace. They seem to raise their voices only when the legalists encroach on the gospel. They are silent on so many of the issues that were important to the religious people of the day.

Three keys to gracefully disagreeing:

  1. Don’t demonize people who disagree with you. Don’t put a black hat on all your opponents. I bet many of them love Jesus just as much as you do — maybe more! It’s horrifying to hear what can be said — in churches! — when people disagree. Instead, be gracious.
  2. Concentrate on things that cultivate peace and help others to grow. Don’t focus primarily on things that would be good controversial talk-show topics! Commit yourself to encouragement.
  3. As Swindoll says, “If you don’t get your way, get over it and get on with life.” If you didn’t get your way at a church vote or staff meeting, get over it. Don’t keep replaying the scene in your mind.

I know it’s not always easy, but make grace the message people see in your actions toward other people, as well as the cornerstone of your doctrine.

Why do you think it’s sometimes hard for church people to agree to disagree on non-essential issues?

What surprises you about Romans 14?

Ask God to help you discern between essentials and non-essentials. Ask Him to help you extend grace to others, especially on the non-essentials.