As Christians we expect and can understand that we won’t see eye to eye on many issues with those who don’t believe. After all, a non-believer doesn’t recognize the Bible as having any authority to tell them how to live their lives. Naturally their viewpoint will be different.
But for those of us who do recognize Jesus as the Lord of our lives, it would seem that we’d agree on most things and certainly the most important matters. And yet, that simply isn’t the case. So, how do we respond when Christians disagree? What if that person is someone you care about deeply? How do you react when they’re as convinced that they are right as you are convinced that you are right?
I can’t recall a time when the differences of beliefs, convictions and opinions have been more starkly apparent than they have been the last few months. I honestly was never so eager for an election process to be over. I truly thought things would settle down, that people would settle down, that we would move on. I was very disappointed when that wasn’t the case.
It has puzzled me as I have observed the reactions of people, some of whom I admire and hold in high esteem. These are people who obviously love the Lord, openly profess Christianity and yet fall into polar opposition to me when it comes to extremely important issues. How can this be? We serve the same Lord, profess the same faith, read the same Bible.
I’ve prayed about it, I’ve pondered it and I’ve yet to discover the answer to how one follower of Christ can so vehemently disagree with another. I only know that it does happen; it is happening now. This is why there are different denominations and ways of worship. Sometimes, perhaps ofttimes, we disagree.
What does the Bible says about how to handle other believers that don’t agree with each other?
“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.”
Romans 14:1 NLT
Look carefully. It does NOT say to accept their beliefs, agree with their convictions or compromise your own. It says to accept the believer. One might wonder, who is the one ‘weak in faith’? Well we probably can all agree on that answer. It’s whoever isn’t seeing things the same way we are of course. (A little light sarcasm).
Bottom line, we can reject ideas, opinions, viewpoints, policies and lifestyles. We should not, however, reject each other. There is a great difference.
“Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”
Romans 14:4 NLT
As Christians, we belong to Jesus. He is our master. He is the one who will judge us, our actions, the way we live our life. Let me assure you of this, He is more than able to judge, approve, intervene, persuade, convict, and help those who claim Him as Lord.
“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
Romans 14:12-13 NLT
I’m not accountable for the way you live your life. I’m accountable for the way I live mine. You are accountable for the way you live yours. Decide today that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall if there is a better way. Then find that better way.
“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over ____________________________ if it makes another person stumble.”
Romans 14:19-20 NLT (blank inserted)
I purposefully inserted a blank there. You can fill it in as you choose. Whatever the disagreement is, I know this, it never ends well for a house divided.
“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.”
Matthew 12:25 NLT
That applies to kingdoms (such as Christianity). That applies to churches. That applies to nations. That applies to families. That applies to friends.
Please DO NOT misunderstand. I am in no way saying you should condone wrong behavior or compromise your own convictions. Be true to your faith, your beliefs and your God. But what I am saying is learn to stand firm without causing a fellow Christian to stumble.
How do you do that? It is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. It requires you to say,
- I do not agree with you but I still love you.
- I don’t think you are right but I will leave the correcting to God.
- I am sure I am right but I will listen carefully to the Holy Spirit.
- I am worried about you, concerned that you have been blinded or deceived, and I’m confused as to how you can come to this conclusion and still be a Christian! But I will leave the judging to God and I will walk, speak and act in love towards you even if we can never agree.
Finally, there is the thing we should do firstly and continually. We should pray. We should pray for those we disagree with. We should pray for those we are concerned for. We should pray for clarity and understanding. We should pray that blinded eyes are open. We should pray that those who are deceived will see the error of their ways. We should pray for wisdom as to how to treat others in a manner that builds up instead of tearing down. We should pray and believe that God is still God and we can still trust Him.
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
James 1:5 NLT
In closing, if you are afraid, if you are worried, if your heart is anxious…
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:6, 8 NLT