To cook with onions or not to cook with onions… that is the question. Ask my wife and you’ll receive a resilient ‘yes!’ Ask me… and not so much. I hate onions and she loves them with a passion. Why on earth would two people with this great a difference between them ever agree to spend their days on this earth together? Is it possibly because we love one another? We’re willing to live with the differences in our taste for onions, even making exceptions so the other’s desires are fulfilled.
As those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, how do we determine what will divide and separate, and what will cause no division? While it may not be a comfortable conversation, it is one that is addressed by the writers of the New Testament.
For example, in the fourteenth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul says there is a time to say, “It doesn’t matter.” There’s also a time, as he told the believers in Corinth to say, “Brother (or Sister), you’re wrong.” We also see (to the Galatians) a time when Paul would conclude, “You can’t be a Christian and adopt that doctrine!”
Is there a checklist available to us to determine when we decide these things? Possibly, but the problem with checklists is our tendency to be persuaded by societal and traditional influences. Think about it. What may be considered very important to a believer in America may be meaningless to a believer in Africa. We also must take into account that times change! What was it that was causing such uproar in Galatia? They were convinced that circumcision was necessary to be a good Christian. Anyone told you lately that you are required to be circumcised to partake of Christ’s riches? You probably have not been told this… unless maybe you have become a believer out of a Jewish heritage.
There is a passage in Scripture, however, that probably sums up everything that should keep us united, and eliminates everything that can cause unwarranted division. Paul, once again writing to the Corinthians, said these words…
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Everything essential to the new birth experience is catalogued in these two verses. Paul has defined the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purest form. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose on the third day just as the Word of God proclaimed.
So what happens when two believers meet with differing concepts of teachings from the Bible? The list could include the method of baptism, or the gift of tongues, or even end times beliefs. These believers could disagree on whether a glass of wine is acceptable, unprofitable, or should be abstained from totally.
How about those times when one believer is caught up in what the Bible determines is definitely sin? How does another believer respond?
Last, what about those disagreements where the gospel, as described by Paul, is injured and left altered or damaged?
The scenarios are much more complex than can be resolved with a few words posted on a website, but with all the division of the church we see today, isn’t the question worth asking?
Will there be walls of petitions in Heaven to hold all of those who were immersed in one area and those who were sprinkled in another? Or… are we so vain as to think that only those blessed with the gift of tongues are truly saved? Or maybe equally as vain to declare that because gifts such as this one has ceased, that those who practice such things can’t be saved? When our brother sins, are we willing to go to them in love and say, “You’re wrong, but I love you. I’m willing to work through this and do whatever is required to restore our fellowship!” To those whose gospel is no gospel, are we willing to stand firm on the truth, yet never cease placing the grace of the cross before them?
A famous quote, whose authorship is questioned states, “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”
If you still insist on a checklist, here’s Paul’s…
1) Let love be genuine. 2) Abhor what is evil; 3) hold fast to what is good. 4) Love one another with brotherly affection. 5) Outdo one another in showing honor. 6) Do not be slothful in zeal, 7) be fervent in spirit, 8)serve the Lord. 9) Rejoice in hope, 10) be patient in tribulation, 11) be constant in prayer. 12) Contribute to the needs of the saints and 13) seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
“Lord, give us the strength to love one another. Let us be a body in unity… not without disagreements, but in spite of them.”