When Christians Disagree

What do we do when Christians disagree?

Disagreement seems to be inevitable–even for Christians. When you look at Scripture you see disagreements. The most obvious example is Paul and Barnabas disagreeing over taking John Mark on the second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). This was a strong disagreement that divided up the missionary enterprise.

Paul talked about the kinds of things Christians disagree over in Romans 14-15.

Like the other churches in the Mediterranean world of the first century A.D., the church at Rome was made up of Jewish believers and Gentile believers. Both had very different backgrounds.

The Jewish believers came out of a background of strict legalism. They emphasized diets and holy days. The Gentile believers had never considered either diets or days being important.

Paul taught the church about the relationship between weak and strong believers. In this context, those who were more strict were the ones Paul considered as the weaker ones. They followed the Jewish dietary laws and considered some days more holy than others. The strong rejoiced in their freedom.

Paul gave principles for getting along in the midst of such differences.

First, Paul called on the believers to welcome one another. This is the basis of the entire passage. All of us belong to God and to one another. Since God has welcomed all believers, we must do the same.

Second, don’t judge or dispose other believers. God is the judge, and He is the Master. We are simply His servants. We don’t have the right to judge another master’s servants. Each servant is responsible only to his master.

The point is that other believers belong to God, not to us. They will be responsible to Him.

Third, we may disagree over the nonessentials. Augustine had a famous assessment of essentials and nonessentials. “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

We must agree on the essentials–salvation, the work of Christ. But the nonessentials–food, holy days, etc.–are not a test of fellowship.

Finally, we must recognize we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We will not be judged for sin–Christ’s work on the cross has purchased our pardon. We will be judged for our works. Each of us must give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:12).

When our Lord returns, let us be found faithful to Him and to His church.

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  1. Lonnie Wascom
    Oct 15, 2014

    I’ve always loved the Augustinian wisdom quoted. Great post.

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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[Mary’s Song] And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. — Luke 1:46-47, 49 (NIV)