I am so glad the mid-term elections are over! Politics cause far too much disagreement – even in the church. With good conscience and personal conviction on both sides, sincere Christians can be divided over party lines. It’s one of those areas like alcohol, homeschooling, and the environment – where we need to learn to lovingly disagree.
So, how do we approach topics like these within the body of Christ? The principles Paul gives in Romans concerning disputes over eating and drinking can be applied to these and other issues.
First, let’s clarify – we must not “agree to disagree” concerning behaviors and attitudes that God clearly calls out as “sin” in His Word. The Bible tells us that believers are ABSOLUTELY TO JUDGE those things within the church and hold other believers accountable to holiness (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). For more about judging see “To Judge or Not to Judge?”
In Romans (Romans 14:1-21), Paul gives guidelines for dealing with matters of personal conviction. (The ESV translates them as “opinions” and the NIV translates them as “disputable matters.”) These are behaviors God has not clearly labeled as sin, but Christians disagree on whether or not they are “right” or “wrong.”
Sadly, just like the Christians in Rome, believers today often judge another believer’s motives and actions regarding OPINIONS. Although the Roman Christians disagreed over issues like eating meat and celebrating certain days, the principles Paul gave them can be applied to our disputable matters today.
7 biblical principles for handling personal convictions
- Accept believers with different opinions on disputable matters (vv 1-4) – Disagreement on secondary issues does not have to mean division.
- Seek God’s wisdom and follow our conscience (vv 5, 23) – These kinds of matters are between an individual and God. Another person cannot decide for you.
- Honor God in all we do (v 6) – We should always seek God’s approval first and foremost.
- Do not judge another believer’s motivations (vv 10, 13) – We can only judge behavior, not the motivations behind it. God will judge the heart.
- Put other’s needs ahead of our own (vv 13, 15, 19, 20-21) – We should not exercise our freedom if it will harm another believer. (See “Having the Right Doesn’t Make it Right.”)
- Keep our opinions about disputable matters (not sin) to ourselves (v 22) – Arguing over matters of personal conviction can only bring harm to the body.
Following these principles may mean we say “yes” to something in one situation and “no” to the same thing in a different situation.