Called To Unity
Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about disputed matters. One person believes he may eat anything, while one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat, and one who does not eat must not judge one who does, because God has accepted him. Who are you to judge another’s household servant? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand.
There are so many different expressions of faith within the church. Some feel it’s more honoring to God to dress up on Sundays and some feel perfectly fine wearing a pair of jeans and flip flops. You may even have your own opinions on whether it is morally okay to get a tongue piercing or tattoo. There are some things that God makes abundantly clear—like the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ—everything else is disputable.
Sometimes the issue is more than mere outward appearance. Paul was addressing two groups of people who opposed on whether it was okay to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Either side had a legitimate argument because everyone’s end goal was to honor God in the best way they knew how. Today, we can compare this to whether or not we observe Lent, which TV shows and movies we choose to watch, or what kind of friends you hang out with.
Especially when practices that are non-essential to salvation become institutionalized, the difference between “can” and “must” can get blurry. And if we aren’t diligently seeking God’s word, it is a slippery slope into legalism.
In truth, our differences are to be celebrated because it’s God who made us all unique (Galatians 3:28; Psalm 139:13). However, anyone who has survived more than a few years on Earth knows that differences present the opportunity to butt heads. More often than not, we allow them to divide us rather than being able to look past them. We all know it’s very easy to flock together with those who are like-minded with us, and become an unwelcoming, closed-off group. So what do we do when our differences begin to divide us and threaten the unity of the church that Jesus prayed for? (John 17:21-23)
We are all being sanctified
A conviction is a view, judgement, or opinion. Since these are coming from our own human beliefs, experiences, and present level of spiritual maturity, they are liable to be wrong. And while these convictions might based on black, white, or grey areas of Scripture, we need to recognize that we all wrestle with obedience to God’s word and are in all stages of sanctification (1 Peter 2:2-3). What we might find as we continue to seek God is that our non-faith convictions are personal to us and may change and grow as we grow up in faith.
We are called to love one another
God’s overarching command is to love one another, because He is love. He’s not calling us to bear with and love one another as long as they agree that dresses and suits are the only acceptable Sunday morning attire. If anyone confesses Jesus as Lord and genuinely seeks the Father’s will for their life, they are a forgiven child of God. They’re in the family just as much as you or I.
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
We are called to unity
In Acts 2 we read the story of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit whooshed over the gathered apostles and filled and rested upon them, enabling them to speak many different tongues declaring the message of Christ. Different tongues. One Spirit working through each different person.
Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.
Build up and do not destroy
We have a lot more influence than we think we do. Consider your choice of words and company. If someone is “weak” in their faith it doesn’t mean worse. It simply means less experienced or new.
I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean. For if your brother or sister is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy, by what you eat, someone for whom Christ died.
The Greek word for stumbling block is skandalon. A skandalon is a trigger on a trap where bait is placed. When an animal comes along to take the bait, the trigger is closed and the animal is trapped. We might cause someone to stumble by actively persuading them to do something they don’t feel morally comfortable with. We might cause someone to stumble passively; for example, choosing immodest clothing. We might also cause a stumble indirectly simply by our lifestyle. This could be a self-proclaimed Christian walking into the office on Monday morning bragging about the debauchery of the weekend before. Now, if any vulnerable people were listening and knew you were a Christian, they might reasonably deduce that Jesus does not transform, comfort, or save.
Freedom to love one another
Yes, we have total freedom in non-essentials through Jesus, but by no means does it cancel out the essentials of our call to love the Lord God and love our neighbors. For me, I would rather never drink again than cause a new believer to become confused or conflicted because of my actions. Again, we are all in sanctification, growing toward a Godly perspective. Will you join me in praying that God will faithfully reveal to us where we can use a reminder?
Memorize this verse to carry in your heart and be ready for the next opportunity to choose God’s perspective: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
What are some things you do to honor God, that are not essential to salvation? Can you think of a time when you treated someone differently because you didn’t approve their non-essential choice?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly writes from her home in Ojai, CA where she also works full time as wife to Marco, mama to Lydia, and account specialist for a software company. She loves rain, early morning runs, and long road trips. Her happy place is a certain table at a local coffee shop with a pen, an empty notebook, and a few hours (and probably a few lattes!). Her writings can be found over at mollylgonzalez.com.