How to disagree agreeably

About ten years ago we went on holiday as a family to Switzerland. We arrived at the campsite after dark and woke up the next day to find that it was a public holiday. And on public holidays in Switzerland everything is closed! There wasn’t a supermarket or even a little corner shop to buy any food. There wasn’t a restaurant or a café for breakfast. We drove for maybe 20 miles and eventually in the town of Sierre the only place we found open for a meal and a drink was McDonalds! And apart from the fact that they put Swiss cheese in the cheeseburger, that food was identical to McDonalds I’ve had everywhere else in the world. The surroundings, the seating, the piped music. Identical to every other McDonalds I’ve ever been to, in England, in France, in Bulgaria, in America, in Canada. Every McDonalds is the same. McDonalds restaurants could be clones of each other.
I am told there was a time when Christian churches used to be like that. All the same. But nowadays that isn’t the case. There is variety in the church. There is diversity.
The apostle Paul has told the Roman church that the most important thing is LOVE.
Romans 13:8-10 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
As long as they disagree in love,
Christians are allowed to disagree Showing discernment over INDISPUTABLE matters (14:1) 14 1. Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.
Matters essential to salvation. We should be never judging but always discerning!
We should show discernment and I believe there are at least four areas at the heart of our faith which are indisputable and NON-NEGOTIABLE.
1. acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and God within the Holy Trinity;
2. submit to the Bible correctly interpreted as the supreme authority for faith and practice.
3. recognise the fallen-ness of humanity and the need for personal repentance and faith in order to receive God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life, which comes through grace alone on the basis of Christ’s atoning and substitutionary death on the cross;
The Bible teaches us clearly that Christ is the only way to God! “I am the way, the truth and the life,” Jesus said. “No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
4. look for the working of God the Holy Spirit as the indispensable element in the life of any Christian and any church;
These indisputable matters, matters where there can be no dispute, no negotiation, are internal matters. But there are other matters, external matters, superficial things, where differences between Christians are not crucial and diversity is allowed.
Disputable matters – then and now
2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. In the church in Rome there were disagreements over eating meat bought from the local market which might previously have been offered at pagan temples in idol worship. There may have been disagreements over whether Christians were obliged to follow Jewish food laws, or observe Jewish festivals.
TODAY ??????
Christians and churches have found so many things to argue about. There may be doctrinal issues, like over the timetable of the second coming of Christ. Over beliefs about baptism or the forms of church government, or Sunday Observance.

But Christians can also be divided over cultural issues, different styles of worship, whether Christians ought to drink alcohol or to smoke, even over styles of clothing and use of money.
Christians are allowed to be different. In this passage when Paul talks about Christians who are strong he is not saying the strong are always right, that they are the more spiritual. He is not saying those he calls weak are in the wrong or are less spiritual. All Christians are accepted by God. In disputable matters, matters not essential for salvation, all are allowed to be different.
How should we live?
Christian freedom – verse 19 says all food is clean.
14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. ”If the son has set you free you will be free indeed”. “We are not under law but under grace.” The Christian life is not about living according to a set of rules.
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. There is no place for prim virtuousness, or puritan or Victorian asceticism or self-righteousness. God wants us to enjoy our Christian lives.
Acting from faith and from thankfulness 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Here is a verse which is often taken out of context. Paul is saying we should feel free to do what WE believe to be right, what our faith in Christ leads us to do, and never do things just because other people tell us we should or we can or we are allowed to.
6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. We should enjoy our Christian lives and do everything as an act of gratitude and worship to God!
Following your conscience
3 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. 4 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 It is what God says that matters. What God lets one Christian do he may forbid another Christian from doing. We are accountable to God – not to each other.
7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. When it comes to inessential, disputable matters there should be no “minding of other people’s business.” What other people do is between them and God.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “`As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, `Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ‘’ 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
We must each make up our own minds before God what is right and wrong for us to do. Martin Luther said:
“A Christian man is the most free, lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. As long as our conscience does not condemn us we are free to live as we choose, to enjoy the wonderful world and all the things in it which God gives us so richly to enjoy – our conscience must guide us.
What about when we disagree? Do not look down – do not condemn 3 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. We need to learn to accept one another – to make efforts to value each other’s differences and distinctives, especially to receive from other Christians who may be different from us. What we cannot do is just ignore each other!
Do not cause others to stumble – we mustn’t let our freedom harm other Christians.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling-block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
We may not have a conscience about doing certain things, but we must respect others who do have such a conscience.
15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.
The challenge is to show love not only by what we do but also by what we refrain from doing.
19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall It is sadly the case that some Christians are too busy enjoying their own freedom to watch out for the effects their behaviour has on other Christians, sometimes younger or less mature Christians. We should NEVER make another Christian act against their own conscience.
Love must come first Romans 15 1. We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please his neighbour for his good, to build him up.
“The strong” should give way, because they can. “The weak” cannot give way, so “The strong” should. So to sum up.
5. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

This entry was posted in Romans.

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