There are many times when people who have the same core beliefs – e.g. Jesus is our Savior – disagree on approaches to worldly problems. Certainly, this last election cycle brought out such differences and emotions were raw. Gun control has its advocates and detractors. Immigration has its advocates and detractors. Even differences concerning traditional hymns and contemporary songs can cause problems.
Christian brothers and sisters have varied viewpoints within the church and community. What do we do when we disagree? Personally, I like Paul’s introduction in I Corinthians. He argues against people following specific leaders:
What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas “; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I Corinthians 1:12-15)
That’s fairly strong language to a group that was praised in the previous verses because “of His grace given to you in Christ Jesus.” (v.4)
The reason he does this is to remind people that we, as Christians, are of Jesus Christ. First and foremost we must realize Christ has saved us. Factions and opinions frequently obscure the fact that God is in control.
The latter part of Ecclesiastes 5:2 establishes we should be careful in our words because God is in Heaven: “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” The overriding factor to all our opinions should first be our submission to God.
So all opinions should first be placed under the reality of who God is. After that, there is the question of how do we react to each other when our opinions differ? Grace towards one another should be the prevalent practice. We might think we have the right answer; we might be able to back our opinion with facts and statistics; but we can still encounter contrary opinions that do the same. In the end, our God still rules. We can pray for what we want but that does not mean we get what we want. Frankly stated, the question can be asked, “Do I always agree with Peter or Josh?” The answer is “No.” Does that mean I am right and they are wrong? Again the answer is “No.” What it does mean is that we differ.
When grace is the motive, we can differ without losing respect.
More dangerous to the unity and mission of the church is when we hold a grudge because of those differences. Other Biblical passages apply, the most relevant being Matthew 5:23,24 and Matthew 18:15-22. The concept of these passages is quite simple. If you want to honor God, go straighten out the problem and remove grudges before giving any gift to God. And, according the latter passage, you should do so regardless of who might be at fault. In other words, don’t let ill feelings linger.
Wouldn’t it be great if we simply followed what God tells us to do? We could extend grace over differing opinions, remove ill feelings (grudges) and honor God simply by talking to each other face to face.
Simply stated, we can have differing opinions. Those must not affect brotherhood before God, who is ultimately in charge, always and forever.
I leave you this question: Do your opinions take precedence over the instruction to “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (I Peter 2:7) If the answer is yes, examine your heart. Do not be afraid to listen to Scripture. It is more than just opinion.