RESOLVING OUR DIFFERENCES
It may be a bit embarrassing, but it's still undeniable: good brethren sometimes disagree. At times, these disagreements are over matters of judgment, matters of opinion. But sometimes the disagreements are about what the Bible actually says. There are times when one brother reaches an honest conclusion that a certain activity is not authorized, while another brother's study leads him to conclude that the same action is authorized.
These honest differences over what the Bible teaches occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it's because we are at different levels of spiritual maturity: one has more knowledge than the other, or more Bible study experience. Sometimes, it is because we have different abilities: one may have more Bible study skills than the other, or one may have a better ability to grasp certain Biblical concepts. Sometimes, it is because we have different backgrounds: we may have been influenced by different circumstances or different people. Sometimes, it's just that one is more careful or careless than the other. But because of these differences in maturity or skills or backgrounds, we, at times, honestly reach differing conclusions about what the Bible actually teaches.
Let me say that these differences are not matters of opinion, but matters of conviction or faith! And when someone expresses (or preaches) his genuine conviction, he is not expressing (or preaching) his opinion! He may be wrong in what he believes, but it is his conviction it's not just his opinion. And all one can do if he is a man of honest conviction is express that conviction and stand for it. As the apostle Paul once said, "I believed, therefore I spoke" (2 Corinthians 4:13).
What do we do when we reach different conclusions about what the Bible teaches? Well, I tell you what we don't do: we don't automatically divide and go our separate ways. As brothers in Christ, we are charged with "being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1). Division may ultimately occur; sometimes it is even necessary (1 Corinthians 11:19). But division must always be the final option, only after every other effort has been exhausted.
But also: we don't force our convictions on one another; in other words, we don't force a brother to do something that violates his conscience. If one brother genuinely believes that an activity is unauthorized, and another brother believes it is allowed, but not required, then this second brother must give up his "right" in respect for the other brother's conscience (study carefully, Romans 14:1-23).
What we must do, brethren, is try to see what the Bible says on that topic in the same way, we must try to agree! (1 Corinthians 1:10). And that will never happen if we refuse to study the issue together in an open and honest way. One who seeks to press his view on others while being unwilling to study the issue is carnal, and may be trying to control others. I know this approach is sometimes taken to keep from confusing innocent or less mature Christians, but it is not the Bible way. Careful and prayerful Bible study together in a sincere search for truth is the only way to reach the same mind on any given subject. If we have a vision for the future, we must learn to study together about our differences in an effort to resolve them.
By Rick Liggin
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