Echo Article: Handling Differences of Conscience

How are the people of God to handle differences of opinion and conviction among one another? Often times the church can become disgruntled over matters of conscience. Two or more people hold a difference of opinion, and where there was once unity, now division. I believe it is safe to say all pastors will wrestle with encouraging the members of Christ’s church to love one another amid diversity. I also believe many Christians desire to keep unity, but they cannot compromise their convictions.

In moments like these, may I encourage a pursuit of wisdom and humility? The Bible teaches that “All the ways of man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” (Prov 16:2). People stand behind convictions they deem most true. Indeed, It is not natural for us to take a position we believe is wrong. When confronted with a difference of opinion, we should allow others to be heard. Often brothers and sisters are labeled and judged too quickly. Listen and evaluate if the differences of opinion are heretical, hypocritical, cultural, uninformed, experiential, a simple difference, partly true, or correct. You might be supervised what you hear from someone else. I have changed my opinion before because someone had the opportunity to speak.

Further, respect one another. We are to understand that God is Lord of the conscience (Jas 4:12; Rom 14:4; Gal 5:1). Though there are some beliefs and practices that are considered clean, if one’s conscience is convicted by such a practice it is considered a sin for them to engage (Rom 14:22-23). Because of this I do not hastily persuade someone to take my position on a variety of issues! Below are other principles that I seek to establish when dealing with differences of Christian liberty:

1. Desire to know God’s Word. By knowing the Bible we can ask, “Is God’s Law being transgressed? Does Scripture clearly speak on the matter?” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” A knowledge of what the Bible says is paramount. It shines light on decisions like these.

2. Understand that man must obey his conscience (Rom 14:1-4, 13, 22; 1 Cor 15:5; 1 John 3:19-24). Though brothers and sisters in Christ may differ on an issue, understand that rebelling against personal conscience is done outside of faith.

3. Keep all words and deeds edifying so God may receive glory(1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17).

4. Remember Christian liberty must be built on a foundation of spiritual freedom. Liberty is not a license to do whatever one pleases. Liberty is the right to do as God pleases without fear. Likewise, liberty must not surrender in a way that misrepresents the faith (Gal 2:3; Col 2:16-23). There are circumstances where it is appropriate to hold to liberty tightly.

I pray as we wrestle with matters of the conscience and liberty, our Lord sees His people loving and patient towards each other. May our conduct display His love and wisdom!

In Christ by His Grace,

Pastor Daniel

Should Christians live in Conflict with One Another?

In today’s sermon from 1 Samuel 18 & 19, Saul is in conflict with David and is not interested in restoration.  Is this proper behavior for a Christian?  The simple answer this question is no.  Christians should never live in conflict or anger with other Christians.  I want to call us as a church to never be OK with slander, gossip, and division.  This reality is so clear in the pages of the Bible.  Jesus tells us that if we are angry with another Christian, we are liable to judgment, and if we speak ill of our brother, we are liable to the hell of fire (Matt. 5:21-22).  Jesus applies that to us by commanding us to always seek restoration with our brother if he or she has something against us (Matt. 5:23-26).

Later in Matthew, we also read Jesus commanding us to go to our brother if they sin against us with the goal of restoration (Matt. 18:15-20).  If we decide to gossip about someone or tell other people what sin they committed rather than going to them in love for the sake of restoration, we are rejecting the words of Jesus and living in rebellion against God.  James commands Christians to not speak against one another, because if we sit in judgment against our brother we are not doing the law. We read in Proverbs 10:18, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.” A mark of a true Christians is not anger and conflict but love, encouragement, and compassion.  Slander, gossip, and anger are marks of unbelievers, but we must put these things to death since these sins are placed in the Bible to describe haters of God (Rom. 1:29-31).  To read more on conflict with Christians as well as slander and gossip read 2 Cor. 12:20, Eph. 4:31, Col. 3:8, 1 Pet. 2:1ff, Lev. 19:16, Titus 3:1-2, Matt. 5:11 below.

 

2 Corinthians 12:20 (ESV) — 20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Ephesians 4:31 (ESV) — 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Colossians 3:8 (ESV) — 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

1 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV) — 1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Leviticus 19:16 (ESV) — 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

Titus 3:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.

Matthew 5:11 (ESV) — 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

 

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Teaching: Committing Murder in Your Heart Matthew 5:21-26

  1. What is commonly believed is this: Anger is OK, Murder is not. (v. 21)
  2. But Jesus teaches us this: Anger in every form is the same as Murder. (v. 22)
  3. Application- Reconcile with your Brother. (23-26)
  4. Application- Settle conflict with unbelievers. (v. 25-26)

“We must not think that because we are not on death row, we do not deserve to be. We may not have murdered anyone, but we may have allowed anger toward another person to feed a root of bitterness in our hearts. Perhaps it is time to kill the root and restore the relationship. Until we do, we are the offender in need of the very mercy we are withholding.” – Daryl Crouch.[1]

 

[1] http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/7-practices-to-help-heal-your-angry-heart

(I apologize for the mistake- Daryl Crouch is a he not a she).

I’m Offended, What Should I Do?

What are we to do with conflict or disagreement?  James 4:11 says this, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

We are called as Christians not to speak evil against one another.  This means that gossiping, sharing information, and harsh tones should not be seen in the members of the church.  But what should we do instead?  If someone is in sin or wrongs us are we supposed to simply not speak evil against them and let them continue in sin?  By no means!  Praise the Lord Galatians 6:1 says this, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”  How amazing is that!?  We don’t have to speak bad things of our brothers in Christ, instead we come along side them and show them their fault, helping them grow out of it into Christ.

This clear biblical model is laid out in Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6, Hebrews 3:12-13, Hebrews 10:24-25 and elsewhere and it brings much glory to God when it is followed.  If you need help with this, come to me and I will try to lead you in a biblical direction.  I thank each of you who have responded to the Sunday school lesson from last week and have lived this out, Praise God for his work in your life.  Let us continue in this together.