Last week we looked at how the modern church and the way it’s perceived play apart in the growing discord between professing believers. (If you missed it or want a refresher you can click here) One of the main reasons is that a church may be portraying weak or absent doctrine on important issues. The second factor is that some believers forego church because of weak doctrine or disagreements with how a church operates. Separation from the body of Christ allows misunderstood or incorrect reasoning of Scripture to go unchallenged and can lead to disunity, as well. This week we will address a far more insidious and poisonous factor.
The second major factor in the discord between followers of Christ is an increased penchant for preaching opinion instead of scripture. Every day there is a new controversial topic or issue to weigh in on and this is magnified by social media. Our first and foremost concern when establishing an opinion on the topics we deal with is to determine where it stands regarding the Bible. Our stance must align with Scriptures and oppose anything contrary to the Word of God. These issues are straightforward, with a solid ground in God’s Word, but not all issues are right or wrong. Some matters are inconsequential and some are not very clear cut. With these issues, all that we can form is an opinion or preference. We all have opinions and preferences and there is nothing wrong with that as we are all different. The problems arise when we let them divide us from those who feel or think something different. There are many people who want to portray their opinions as Scriptural and denigrate or belittle other followers of Christ because they don’t hold the same regards.
This political season highlighted the problem as there were plenty of post of people condemning other Christians for voting for Trump or voting against Trump or voting 3rd party. This same hostility is seen for ministries, governmental policy, or any number of other issues that don’t fall under Scripture. These conflicts often pop up in the public view, either verbally in real life, or online on Facebook or other social media. This is very damaging as it is the spiritual equivalent of the body of Christ undergoing an autoimmune disease. This is not a very encouraging sight to the lost people of the world.
Our Creator is the only one capable of determining what is right and wrong. Anything wrong is sin, any action, word, or thought contrary to the will of God. When a person pushes their opinion as right and people who disagree as wrong they have usurped God’s authority. Even Paul understood this in 1 Corinthians 7 when he states that is his opinion that it is better for people to remain celibate and focus their entire life on spreading the Gospel. He specifies that this not a commandment so anything that tries to state that God requires people to be celibate is not truthfully communicating the Bible. This same topic is addressed in Mark 7 when Jesus calls the Pharisees out for holding traditions of men while laying aside the commandments of God. Considering the second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbor as yourself this is exactly the scenario we have when believers start bashing other believers because they do/don’t support a political policy, do/don’t vaccinate, do/don’t keep the Sabbath (Romans 14, Colossians 2), should/shouldn’t have musical instruments in church, and on and on and on.
Going hand in hand with this is that people who push an opinion as a moral truth generally maintain an air of self-righteousness, looking down on, and even belittling, those who don’t agree with them. This is reminiscent of the parable of the Pharisee in Luke 18 who felt he was more righteous than other men because he fasted twice a week and gave tithe of all that he had. Jesus goes on to say that the publican who came to God in humility begging for mercy was justified, not the self-righteous Pharisee.
In John 13, Jesus speaks with his disciples that remained at the last supper after Judas, His betrayer, had departed. In verses 34 and 35 He says, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Jesus is speaking to believers about how they treat other believers. “All men” should know who the followers of Christ are by how they treat other followers of Christ. Jesus already gave the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves, why would He give this new commandment? He gave this commandment because beyond Christ, no one should be closer to us than fellow believers. Yes, we should love the lost as we love ourselves but we cannot fellowship with them as we should with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead of tearing each other down we should be lifting each other up.
Romans 14:19 gives us a clear path to follow, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” In regards to our fellow followers of Christ we need to strive to make peace and try and help them in their walk with the Lord. If they err, in humility we bring them the truth of the Bible, seeking to restore them. If they are troubled, we should gather around them to provide support. When they have questions, we should search the Scriptures and help them to find the answers. We are all adopted into the family of God, let’s treat each other like the brothers and sisters we are.