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February 15, 2011 / beidson

Dealing With Our Differences: Why Maturity and Humility are Necessary

Sometimes other people just don’t get it, right?  And you’re one of them, and so am I.  The nature of Christian community is such that people from a million different backgrounds, with a million different angles on life, and a million different contexts are forced and forged together by a common faith in Jesus.  God has done this on purpose to show us the power of the gospel to unite everyone who is born again into the body of Christ.

The Bible is heavy on the practical implications of its communal theology.  It is everywhere telling us how to get along with one another, and how to love and serve one another, as Christ has done for us already and commanded us to do for life.  There are many times when believers may come to an impasse, where it simply seems there is no way to work toward an agreement, but there is a way.

Here is the key to getting along: love one another.  This will manifest itself in at least two ways between people who can’t seem to find a common ground on deeply held convictions: through maturity on the part of the one with the “weaker” conscience, and through humility on the part of the one with the “stronger” conscience.

Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are two very practical passages that show us how to deal with our differences.  The bottom line is that those who supposedly know better and understand the liberty they have through faith and new life in Christ are to surrender their freedoms for the sake of others.  Freedom, then, is not for liberty, but for serving.  Freedoms are given to be sacrificed.  Though our consciences are not bound by human opinion, they are certainly not independent of human opinion.  Those who know better and who see more clearly how to apply the law of Christ in their lives are not thereby given the freedom to look down on those who have not “caught up” with them, as it were.  In fact, they are actually called to “step back” to be with those who are behind them.  Here is a call for humility.

On the other hand, you can ‘t be a baby forever.  We are told to “grow up” into Christ (Ephesians 4) and in other places we are told that staying on the milk is a sign of childeshness.  It’s okay to be young in the faith, but it’s not okay to prolong immaturity.  Those with the weaker consciences, who are offended by the freedoms of others, are told to grow up and get over it.  It is not the job of the stronger person to make this point; this is the Spirit’s work, which he does by the Word and through a humble community of loving Christians.  He leads perfectly; we tend to get behind others and push, too hard and too fast.

At any rate, those who are so easily offended by the practices of other believers are, in these passages, given a sneak peak, as it were, into God’s perspective, and thereby gently encouraged to lay down unfruitful and unnecessary traditions, though never before their consciences allow them.  Here is a call for maturity.

So then, there is a way to knock down walls that separate us through a love that is both wise and gentle, mature and humble.  There will be times when we cannot continue on the same mission-bound boat (as Paul and Barnabas once parted ways), but our differences must not cause bitterness between us or serve as occassions to cause one another to stumble over the stones we are throwing at each other.  There is only one Stone that causes people to stumble: Jesus Christ.  All other stones are meant for building up the church, not destroying it.

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